Stand Down 2011

Coming into my summer internship with the Services to the Armed Forces (SAF) program, I had an idea of the type of work I’d be doing, but I didn’t realize the impact it would have on others. Three months later, I am very aware of how much the American Red Cross helps our servicemen, women, veterans, and their families. From assisting them before, during, and after deployments to delivering coffee, toiletries, and clothing to the Jesse Brown and Hines VA Hospitals. We also attend various military and community events informing families of the Red Cross services that are available to them, such as our emergency communication service that helps connect families in the U.S. to their loved ones servicing overseas. The Red Cross is always there.

Having the opportunity to work with, and learn from, the members and families of the armed forces, the staff at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, the volunteers and employees of the local VA Hospitals, and other service organizations is such a blessing. They are kind, selfless, passionate, fun group of individuals who inspire me with their work everyday.

All of the events and projects I worked on have been interesting and worthwhile, the most memorable was Stand Down 2011. This event for homeless and low-income veterans was an extremely satisfying, eye-opening, and fun three days. It began with setting up in General Jones Armory, which required sweeping, mopping, setting up tables, and sorting through the clothing, food, and donated items. On day one over 700 veterans came to register, that is when I understood the importance of our pre-event preparations. Day two included free eye and medical exams, haircuts, legal, housing, and job assistance. The Red Cross also provided attendees with two hot meals, live music, and most of all a sense of camaraderie. On day three, after breakfast had been served, we handed out huge bags of supplies, which included brand new boots, shirts, socks, underwear, toiletries, bagged lunches etc. The level of appreciation and smiles on their faces was so gratifying, and I will look forward to volunteering at this event again.

While interacting with veterans and families at Stand Down and other deployment events is exciting and rewarding, there is also a lot of behind the scenes work that the Manager of Operations Support, Erin Counihan, does to be able to provide the support of the Red Cross. Many tasks have to be performed before the event, but the most challenging for me was SAF casework. Calling families that had suffered a loss or had emergencies was difficult, but when they genuinely thanked me for being a part of a network that was able to get their father, mother, son, daughter, brother, or sister home from war in a time of need, I realized the importance of the SAF program. Our current and passed service men and women and their families have made so many sacrifices for our freedom, and being able to help them in their time of need and show them our appreciation is truly a gift.

Written by: Jodie Lieffring

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