Dave Happ wishes he had known about the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society back in the 1970s when he was a junior officer in the Navy, in charge of young Sailors who needed financial support. “I could’ve helped them by sending them to the Society,” he explained. Fortunately, now he is able to help many more service members in his role as a volunteer at NMCRS Miramar.

Happ began serving as a client services assistant in 2017, about a year after retiring from his civilian career in hospital finance. He served on active duty as a surface warfare officer on the USS Alamo and as an instructor at Surface Warfare Officers School from 1971 to 1977. Happ then served in the reserves until 1995, retiring in the rank of Commander

One of his duties as a volunteer is to lead welcome aboard, pre-deployment, and PCS briefings on base, ensuring that service members and their families know about the range of services that NMCRS provides through its offices all over the world, and how to take advantage of them. For example, at pre-deployment briefings, Happ makes sure everyone receives pre-authorization forms so it’s easy for spouses to access NMCRS services while their spouses are deployed.

Happ also serves as a resource for other events on base. “One of the events that was really fun was the homecoming of a local squadron,” he said. “When a squadron is coming home and all the spouses and kids and parents are waiting there, the last thing they’re thinking about is taking out a loan, but we set up a table and hopefully people will see us while they’re waiting and come and ask questions and take our information and save it for the future.”

In his interactions with clients, Happ hears many stories that echo what he saw back in the 1970s. “Young folks get into financial difficulties now just like they did then. The great thing we do here is help them get through the rough spots. The education piece is enjoyable for me. I want to help them develop some financial management skills so that in their futures maybe they will not have a need for us. I always have a good time sitting at the front desk and talking to these folks. I also like when we’re doing check-outs for people who are leaving the service or retiring. They talk about what their next job is going to be or where they’re going to school. I’ve talked to Marines who are going to medical school or becoming engineers or others who are taking jobs applying the skills they learned in the Corps. They’re trained up and ready.”

One big difference Happ sees between service members today and those he served with is their commitment to the military. “Back when I was serving, it was Vietnam era and a lot of young men just didn’t want to be there. They served well but they had other things they’d rather be doing. Now I see Marines are happy to be Marines, who truly enjoy their service. I see that camaraderie and the way they relate to each other up and down the chain of command is far better than before.”

Happ sits behind the front desk in the NMCRS Miramar office every Monday morning, in addition to performing various administrative duties such as audits of volunteer hours and end-of-month reports, as well as briefings.

“I love working with all the people in our office. We share the common purpose of making a difference for our service members, which is a very worthwhile thing to do.”

By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso

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