Red Cross Volunteers at the 2017 Warrior Games

Red Cross Volunteers at the 2017 Warrior Games

The annual Department of Defense Warrior Games is an event dedicated to enhancing the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded warriors through the world of adaptive sports. This year’s Warrior Games ran from June 30th to July 8th and had about 265 service members and veteran participants. The games are sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee and are comprised of participants from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), as well as the United Kingdom Armed Forces and the Australian Defence Force. This year’s games were hosted in Chicago and featured events ranging from archery, cycling, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track, and wheelchair basketball.

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The volunteers at the Warrior Games numbered about a thousand. Red Cross volunteers came from all throughout the Chicago area to offer their time. Lia Morris, a disaster volunteer who has been with the Red Cross for two years, was one of them. Working in small teams, the Red Cross volunteers were divided by location and event. Lia worked as a venue coordinator and helped to check-in volunteers and direct them to their assigned areas. “Everyone was great to work with and worked hard. Even during times when we had to shift people around, people were flexible and willing to take on other responsibilities” said Morris.

Thank you to all of the Red Cross volunteers who gave their time at this awesome event!

The Red Cross offers many services to active service members, veterans, and their families. See how we can help here.

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Local Military Family Receives Red Cross Resources

Local Military Family Receives Red Cross Resources

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.

Honoring Military Heroes and their Families

Honoring Military Heroes and their Families

Every day at the Red Cross, we honor those who served in the armed forces and their families by providing support before, during, and after military deployment.

Today, we offer special thanks to those who have served and those who continue to serve their country through the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois.

Listen to a message from the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois.

Learn about a few veterans who continue to serve through the American Red Cross.

aliciatatenadeauSaving lives, love for family, and call to duty are three life missions for U.S. Army Brigadier General Alicia Tate-Nadeau that forever have tied a piece of her heart to the American Red Cross.

As the top commander at the Office of Emergency Management & Communications (OEMC), Alicia is charged with protecting the lives of more than three million people and property in Chicago. Appointed as OEMC’s Executive Director in June by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alicia, who also represents the city on the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Board of Directors, brings leadership to these roles from both her personal and military life.

While stationed in Tel Aviv, Israel in 2014 as an Army liaison officer, Alicia was walking near the Mediterranean Sea when she noticed a crowd gathered around a man on the ground. Her instinct was to help. Trained in first aid by the Red Cross, she administered CPR until first responders arrived.

Around the same time, halfway around the world, another heart close to her was ailing. Notified through the Red Cross Hero Care Network, the organization’s Service to the Armed Forces emergency message system, Alicia learned her brother, Ryan, was scheduled to undergo major heart surgery. Doctors were uncertain if Ryan would survive, and she wanted to be there, holding his hand at his bedside.

Two years later, while Ryan still waits for a new heart, Alicia is grateful the Red Cross helped her family – never thinking she would be the one to get that call for request for leave. She advises hundreds of relatives of service members before deployments to save that Red Cross refrigerator phone number magnet as a lifeline to keep families connected in any part of the world.

Joining the region’s Red Cross Board of Directors this year is an extension of her heart to serve the community she loves.

“Everything I’ve done—from working with people, technology, foreign affairs, humanitarian assistance and civil support—has brought me here.” she said. “I’m connected to the mission.”

howardgoldsteinHoward Goldstein is known among the Chicago Red Cross casework unit as “the closer.”

When volunteers connect with residents after a disaster, like a home fire or flood, the Red Cross immediately starts the navigation process to help families recover. Once those services are identified, Howard steps in to ensure people receive medication replacements, counseling, housing resources, etc.

Howard’s motto is, “Every case that gets opened, has to get closed.”

Howard also serves as the Veteran’s Administration Volunteer Services (VAVS) Red Cross liaison to Chicago area VA hospitals. When he’s not attending yellow ribbon events, you’ll find him at the Hines VA food pantry in Hines, Illinois. He feels at home there, among his comrades, having served a medic in Vietnam field hospitals from 1968-1969 as Specialist 5th Class in the U.S. Army.

TyraOliver.jpgCaptain Tyra Oliver has devoted her military career and volunteer service to helping others feel better – inside and out.

The U.S. Army veteran serves as a Reservist at the 55th Medical Detachment Combat Operational Stress Control (COSC) unit in Indianapolis, Indiana. While stationed in Kuwait, she ran a behavioral health clinic at Camps Arifjan and Buehring.

Back home, Captain Oliver helps those battling trauma as a member of the Red Cross disaster mental health team in Chicago. She also responds to home fires and helps families cope with loss.

A volunteer since 2014, Captain Oliver also facilitates reconnecting workshops offering emotional support for service members and their families.

Why I Run for Team Red Cross

Why I Run for Team Red Cross

I remember the exact spot I was standing when I checked my phone on July 20, 2015 and read the text: “headed to Lake Forest ER, please pray.” Right then I knew something big was happening; change was coming, but I had no idea what an impact it was going to have on my life. I drove right from work to the hospital.

Stage 4 cancer. You could physically feel the ache in the room. My grandma, the center of our entire family was diagnosed with the unimaginable. For 17 weeks we watched the brave woman we knew battle this unrelenting disease. Throughout the entire process, I was in denial—this wasn’t happening, she would beat this, it’s not that bad. But it was bad. I watched the strongest person I know, become physically, emotionally, and spiritually weak.

My cousin Nolan, a US Marine, left three days before we found out about the diagnosis for Okinawa, Japan, where he would be stationed for the next two years. Every day, my grandma would open her iPad and say to the picture of my cousin on the screen saying, “Hi Nollie, I hope I can see you just one more time.” Her one, final wish was to have all her family together just one more time.

The American Red Cross made that wish a reality. My aunt and uncle contacted the Red Cross on Friday, Nov. 20, to explain the situation hoping to set up a time within the next several weeks to get Nolan back to the United States. Instantly they got a response that Nolan would be on a plane the next Monday and would land in Chicago on Tuesday.

On Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, we rushed my grandma to the ER once again where she would leave hours later; sent home on Hospice for her final days. Nolan landed the next day reuniting with my grandma and my entire family. That day was the best she looked in months.

Then she began slipping away from us, beginning her journey to heaven. Those days are the best and worst days of my life. The best, in the sense that I have never felt such a strong, united bond with my family. We laughed together, we shared stories of the past, we cried, we sang, and we prayed. On Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, at 6:50 a.m. my grandma left her weak, diseased body and entered the Kingdom of God.

There are no words I could ever say to express the gratitude I have for the American Red Cross. They gave my family a priceless gift that truly is irreplaceable.

This year I have the honor and privilege to run the 2016 Chicago Marathon with my mother and best friend. I am excited and somewhat nervous to push my body both physically and mentally beyond anything I have ever done.

I am not doing this for myself, but in hopes to give back to an organization that helped me and my family in our darkest time.

Runners who are interested in participating in the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon can join Team Red Cross, the official race team of the American Red Cross. General registration for the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9 is closed, but limited spots are still available through charity partners like the Red Cross until Sept. 15. Team members pledge to raise at least $1,500 to support Red Cross humanitarian programs and services. Register to join Team Red Cross online or email stephanie.patton@redcross.org. For more information about Team Red Cross click here.

Janelle Johnson, 25, of Lake Bluff, Illinois is a first-time marathon runner and member of Team Red Cross running in the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9.

Golin Volunteers Thank Navy Veteran for Service

19957827133_8554473c28_o(HINES, IL) – John Williams thought he would grow up to be a butcher in his dad’s meat market. Instead he proudly chose another uniform, becoming a sailor in the United States Navy.

Williams enlisted when he was 19 years old and “got to see the world” serving two years from 1962-1964 as a radar technician. He was stationed on an aircraft carrier in San Diego, CA in Nov. 1963 when he heard the news President John F. Kennedy was killed. Williams remembers how the ship turned solemn, but found support among his fellow military members.

Now a patient at the Hines VA Hospital in Hines, IL more than 50 years later, Williams gets supports from those who value and honor his service, like the volunteers from Golin who joined the Red Cross Aug. 10 to hand out comfort kits of items like soap and socks to veterans on the hospital’s 7th floor.

“To sit and talk with veterans who made such a huge sacrifice to our country is a wonderful way to show you care and thank them for their service,” said Molly Sawyer, a Golin volunteer.

Story by Patricia Kemp, Communications Manger, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Photos by Gerry Holmes, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois        

Services to the Armed Forces program: National Military Appreciation Month

Sergeant Jacinda with her grandmother: Red Cross helps military families connect during emergencies

Sergeant Jacinda with her grandmother: Red Cross helps military families connect during emergencies

From its early days, the American Red Cross has provided full support to the members of the U.S. military, veterans and their families. Jonathan Aguilera attests to these efforts whole-heartedly. Jonathan is the proud father of Jacinda Aguilera who is a Sergeant with the Army National Guard and who also served in Afghanistan before being stationed in El Paso, Texas after she suffered injuries. Recently Jacinda’s grandmother Ursula unexpectedly fell ill, her prognosis was grave and her doctors didn’t feel she had much time left.

After hearing about the Red Cross services from fellow soldiers in similar situations, Jacinda asked her father to reach out to the organization. Jonathan then contacted the Chicago chapter late one night and received a prompt response. He was extremely impressed by the efficiency with which the Red Cross handled the response. Within mere two hours of the call, the paperwork for Jacinda’s emergency leave was processed and sent off to her supervisors in El Paso, Texas. In addition, the Red Cross kept the worried father posted on every step of the process by doing follow-up calls and providing him regular updates. Shortly, Jacinda was on a flight home and could meet her grandmother before she passed away.

“We should be grateful to have such a source to connect us with our loved ones during family emergencies. We really appreciate the services you have provided to bring my daughter home in time to see her grandmother one last time,” said Jonathan.

Through its  Services to the Armed Forces program, the Red Cross supports our service members in the military by connecting them with their families during emergencies,  providing them resilience training to deal with the challenges of deployment, and linking their families with local community resources.  But the service most commonly used connects a deployed service member to their family in times of emergency.

These services have their roots in the beginning of the Vietnam War when 365 Chicago Red Cross volunteers were providing relief at 107 Red Cross stations.  During this time, the American Red Cross implemented a unique program called “Voices from Home” where individuals recorded messages for service men overseas. The programs were met with an astounding number of requests and helped establish the Red Cross as the major military aid institution in Chicago. Like the Aguilera family, Red Cross helps military personnel to communicate with their families far away.

The American Red Cross Emergency Communications Center is available to help 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to relay urgent messages containing accurate, factual, complete and verified descriptions of the emergency to service members stationed anywhere in the world, including on ships at sea and at embassies and remote locations. For more information visit: http://www.redcross.org/find-help/military-families/emergency-communication-services

Tonight when you go home and spend quality time with your family and friends, take a moment to pause  and remember our fellow Americans who are risking their lives and serving the nation, domestically and internationally, so you can enjoy these days of freedom. The American Red Cross salutes the Armed Forces of the United States of America and all members serving in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard as well as all veterans and their families during the National Military Appreciation Month this May.

Written by: Amisha Sud

National Volunteer Week–Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway in Milan ,1918When you read one of Ernest Hemingway’s works it might not strike you that he was once an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross! As we celebrate National Volunteer week, we would like to highlight the contributions of our devoted volunteers to the Red Cross mission particularly, of renowned American author Ernest Hemingway.

During World War I, Chicago-born Ernest Hemingway responded to a Red Cross recruitment effort in Kansas City and signed on to become an ambulance driver in Schio, Italy and then as a canteen worker at the Piave River until he was wounded. While Hemingway was distributing chocolate and cigarettes to Italian soldiers in the trenches near the front lines, an explosion seriously wounded him. But regardless of his injuries, Hemingway carried an Italian soldier on his back to a first-aid station, for which he received the Italian Silver Medal of Military Valour.

The Italian government cited with the award that, “Ernest Miller Hemingway of Illinois Park (Chicago) Lieutenant of the American Red Cross responsible for carrying sundries to the Italian troops engaged in combat, gave proof of courage and self sacrifice. Gravely wounded by numerous pieces of shrapnel from an enemy shell, and with an admirable spirit of brotherhood before taking care of himself, he rendered generous assistance to the Italian soldiers more seriously wounded in the same explosion and did not allow himself to be carried elsewhere until after they had been evacuated”.

He spent five days at a field hospital where he allowed other soldiers who were more seriously wounded by the same explosion to be treated before he was and remained with them until they were all evacuated. He was then transferred for recuperation to the Red Cross hospital in Milan for six months where he also found his first love in Red Cross nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky.

But Ernest Hemingway’s association with the Red Cross went beyond his voluntary work. Hemingway always admired the work of the organization, and when he returned home from the war he often wore his Red Cross uniform proudly around town. Ernest Hemingway’s Red Cross enlistment was one of the most influential experiences of his life and his development as a writer and a thinker. It also provided much of the source material for his work ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and his writings about Italy and the Great War. His involvement with the Red Cross led to some of the finest American literature on the Great War.

Ernest Hemingway represented all the values of a Red Cross volunteer—bravery, sacrifice, service and compassion for others. The Red Cross always respects the incredible hard work put in by all our volunteers all over the nation. Thousands of volunteers are out there every minute helping the community with emergency disaster response, providing life saving health and safety training and constantly trying to meet the immediate need of blood. The Red Cross celebrates the efforts put in by all supporters everywhere through National Volunteer week. Visit our website http://www.redcross.org/il/chicago to find out ways in which you can volunteer.

Written by: Amisha Sud