Flora Martinez, 55, received a surprise call from the local Red Cross after her son deployed with the U.S. Army. During the call, Michelle McSweeney, Manager of Service to the Armed Forces Programs, had a conversation with Flora in Spanish about the support that the Red Cross offers to military families.
“I didn’t know about any of these programs and I was very happy to hear about them,” said Flora, who recalled another time, years ago when she lived in Mexico, when the Red Cross helped her. Her mother was sick and a Red Cross ambulance helped their family at no charge. Flora even volunteered for the Red Cross as a teenager when she lived in Mexico.
Flora immigrated to the U.S. thirty years ago. Her son, Cristian, is 23 years old and currently stationed in Bahrain, a small island between Dubai and Saudi Arabia. He has been in the army for two years, having decided to pursue a U.S. military career at the age of 21 to do something remarkable for him, his family and his country.
The Red Cross helps members of the military, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to, the challenges of military service. The call Flora received was assurance that help is always available to her. One of the most common things military families need, is assistance in reaching their service member in the case of an emergency at home, such as an unexpected illness of a family member or the passing of a loved one.
The Red Cross is available 24/7 to ensure these urgent messages are sent as quickly as possible to the service member, no matter where in the world they are stationed. At times, the Red Cross may also assist in helping the service member get back home on emergency leave to spend time with their family when they need it most.
Cristian is currently able to communicate with his family from Bahrain through text messages, FaceTime calls, and handwritten letters. He always reminds his family how much he misses them and how good he feels being in the military because he is doing something important.
Thanks to Cristian’s hard work, he’s able to help his sister go through medical school at Loyola.
Flora fondly remembers her most recent birthday, when someone knocked on the front door and she opened it to find Cristian proudly standing there in his army uniform.
“I immediately started crying. It was a very emotional moment for both of us,” said Flora. “It was the best birthday present I could ever imagine.”
He had come home for three weeks and they spent both Flora’s birthday and Thanksgiving together as a family.
Years after she volunteered for the Red Cross in Mexico, Flora is now planning to volunteer for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, starting by helping to install smoke alarms in her neighborhood in Waukegan.
To learn more about how Red Cross helps military families, please visit our website at redcross.org/emergencycommunication.