How the Red Cross Helps Veterans

Why the Red Cross Helps

I remember visiting Washington D.C. with my family in high school. We went to the Vietnam War Memorial, and I felt dwarfed by the long black wall with so many names engraved into it. At that time, I did not grasp the immense significance of the names; how each represented a soldier with a family, memories of home and childhood, and plans for what they would do if they returned home. As I get older, approaching college graduation, I learn more and more about everything soldiers risk when they choose to serve our nation. On the Vietnam War Memorial, each name is a reminder of those who died because of the war, who paid the greatest sacrifice a person can make in life.

Our nation goes to great lengths to honor our soldiers, fallen heroes and veterans. Both government programs and non-profit organizations provide aid to veterans throughout their life. One of these non-profits is the Red Cross, and we are so thankful for the opportunity to serve those who have served us first, risking their lives for our safety.

How the Red Cross Helps

Emotional Support

The Red Cross serves our nation’s military in multiple ways. One of these ways is through emotional support. When a soldier leaves home for deployment, both the soldier and his/her family are likely to experience some sort of emotional distress. The soldier may experience the pain of separation from their family or anxiety over their own safety and transitioning into a new realm of life. Many times these soldiers have spouses and children and may fear for their beloveds’ well being. Likewise, the family may experience the pain of separation and fear for their loved one’s safety.

To help people through this, the Red Cross offers workshops to help people cope with deployments, PTSD and trauma. The Red Cross also offers workshops specifically geared towards helping children deal with the deployment of a parent or sibling. The Red Cross has many volunteers who are trained to reach out to and care for soldiers, veterans, and their families when tough times come.

Working with Veterans Affairs

The Red Cross also works together with the Veterans Affairs Health Care Centers, which are government-run clinics dedicated to serving veterans. The Red Cross goes to these locations and helps with weekly food pantries for veterans, in addition to running the No Veteran Dies Alone program. In this program, the Red Cross ensures that veterans without families are not left alone in a hospital, but instead sends volunteers to talk with and care for the ill veterans. Being stuck in a hospital alone is an awful experience, and the Red Cross ensures that this does not happen.

Emergency Communications

The Red Cross also works with the government to help families communicate with their soldiers in a time of emergency. Even when soldiers are overseas, problems can arise back home. Loved ones may become sick or pass away, for example. In these times, the Red Cross gives information to the military about the emergency. This allows the soldier’s commander to make an educated decision about whether emergency leave should be given to the soldier to return home.

Military Entrance Processing Help

The Red Cross also helps at Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) for soldiers preparing to serve the country. These are locations where soldiers go to swear in and complete the enlistment process. When soldiers and their families come, the Red Cross also come and informs the families of the services they offer, as discussed above. The Red Cross also provides details about how families and soldiers can communicate (good days and times for phone calls, for example) and informs every one of the Hero Care App, a phone app that allows the Red Cross’ services to be accessed easily.

How to Volunteer or Get Help

You can see volunteer opportunities for the Red Cross by going to www.redcross.org. Those interested in volunteering with the Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces Dept. should contact Breanna Rodriguez at breanna.rodriguez@redcross.org. Dedicated volunteers are the only way that the Red Cross is able to offer the amount of services that it can to those in need, and we are extremely thankful for their help, and love having new people join our team.

Those who need help can call 1-877-272-7337, the phone number for the Red Cross Emergency Communication Services. This dispatch service will connect you with the people that can help you in the way you need most.

 

Written by Gordon White, Communications Intern for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

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