PO1 Jennifer Grossglass and her family

PO1 Jennifer Grossglass and her family

Manning the rails during sea detail while returning to homeport after a six-month deployment in March 2011, PO1 Grossglass quickly spotted her mom and dad waving to her from the pier – but she couldn’t find her 32-year-old sister, Ginger, in the crowd. It wasn’t until she made it down the gangway and hugged her parents when they told her that her older sister had been diagnosed with cancer. “They didn’t tell me while I was deployed because they didn’t want me to worry,” Grossglass recalled. Grossglass was able to visit her sister a few times during her treatment, but then Grossglass was transferred from MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina to Corry Station in Pensacola, Florida to become an IT “A” school instructor.

“After I PCS’d to Florida, in August 2011, I learned Ginger had beaten her rare form of tongue cancer but was now diagnosed with terminal lung cancer,” Grossglass said. “At the same time, I’d been going through a rough divorce. I’d put myself in debt trying to establish my life as a single mom.” When it seemed like her sister’s death was imminent, Grossglass’s parents asked her to come home. “I didn’t have the money to fly back to Washington from Florida,” Grossglass said. “My department head told me to go to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. I said, ‘I don’t know what that is, sir.’ I’d been in the Navy for 10 years and had never heard of it. He filled me in and sent me to the NMCRS Pensacola office. After I explained why I needed financial assistance, they paid for and arranged a plane ticket and rental car for me so I could get to my sister’s bedside. They also explained how I could pay the Society back when I returned.”

Grossglass and her infant son flew to Washington, arriving an hour after her sister passed away. Her grief quickly turned to frustration when the funeral home handling her sister’s arrangements required $4,000 up front before they would begin preparing her sister’s body for burial. “I paid,” Grossglass explained. “My parents didn’t have that kind of money, and I wiped out all my savings.”

When she returned to Pensacola, Grossglass went back to the NMCRS office to request a longer repayment period because of the unexpected funeral expenses. “The caseworker I was working with left and came back with her director, Mark Harden. I explained again what happened and said ‘I want to pay this all back, I’m not asking for anything, I just need to make payments over a longer period of time.’ The NMCRS director said, ‘I wish you’d come to us sooner, we’re going to turn your loan into a grant.’ That really saved me!

A few years later Grossglass had the opportunity to give back to the Society when she helped coordinate the Active Duty Fund Drive at Naval Station Mayport, Florida. “Sailors don’t understand the impact of what the Society does until they hear about how it helped someone like them,” she explained. When preparing for the 2015 ADFD Kick-off Event, NMCRS Mayport director, Bill Kennedy, asked Grossglass to tell her story about her experience with the Society to the Fund Drive Coordinators and Key Persons for all the commands and units aboard NAVSTA Mayport. She was eager to do so – and looks for every opportunity to express how grateful she is for the Society’s assistance.

Only a year after working with the active duty fund drive, Grossglass was faced with another family crisis. Her father, a long-haul truck driver, had a heart attack while driving through Idaho. He was in surgery when Grossglass got the call that she and her brother should come. “I walked down to the NMCRS office and, within 30 minutes, they had me ticketed on a flight leaving at 5:30 the next morning, and I had money in my hand to cover my hotel and expenses.” While her father survived the surgery and spent the next 30 days in a medically induced coma to promote recovery, he ultimately died. “After my dad passed away, I came back to NMCRS and they said they wanted to turn it into a grant, but I said, ‘No, not this time.’ I feel like, with everything NMCRS has done for me, it’s got to be paid back because some other Sailor is going to be as unfortunate as I have been.”

Now eight months pregnant, Grossglass serves as an executive assistant to the Commanding Officer, NAVSTA Mayport. Her fiancé, currently deployed, is an avionics technician. Even though this is her third pregnancy, Grossglass attended the Society’s Budget for Baby workshop again. “It’s always helpful,” she said. “A lot of female Sailors I see coming into this office are pregnant and the first thing I ask them is if they’ve taken the Society’s Budget for Baby workshop. Many of them are going to be single parents and the workshop helps you figure out how you can do it on your own.”

Petty Officer Grossglass also promotes the Society to junior Sailors who are facing all kinds of financial crisis—not just when they’re pregnant—and recently saw NMCRS in action when Hurricane Matthew hit the Jacksonville, Florida area. “Naval Station Mayport opened an emergency facility and NMCRS volunteers and staff were there for three days giving small, interest-free loans to Sailors and Navy families whose houses or cars had been damaged. The Society is always helping.”

By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso

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