In 1999, Congress designated May as National Military Appreciation Month. At the Red Cross, we pause to recognize and celebrate our employee and volunteer military community and we’re proud to recognize and highlight one of our very own … American Red Cross of Greater Chicago volunteer, Don Cusack.
Don served in the U.S. Army for 41 years as an Intelligence Analyst. Inspired by his wife, Don was motivated to volunteer with the Red Cross and since 2017, he has deployed 12 times to disasters like Hurricanes Irma, Florence, and Ida and countless number of floods and tornadoes. At a very young age, Don felt the calling to service and even now, during retirement, he remains at the ready.
Why did you join The U.S. Army?
Joining the Army was born out of a competitive streak. Following my father’s footsteps, I have two other brothers who joined, and I thought to myself, “If they joined and made it, so can I!” That competitive streak led me to The United States Army Airborne School, also known as Jump School, which is one of the most difficult trainings you can imagine. Jump School is a 3-week intense training program … of the 800 of us that started, 400 didn’t make it after only 2 weeks! After many miles of running and five required jumps from moving aircrafts, I successfully completed Jump School and became a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. It is this type of competitiveness and determination that brings out the leader in us which gives us the motivation to step forward and help and care for people when they most need it.
Why after a 41-year military career, did you decide to volunteer with the Red Cross?
I volunteer with the Red Cross for self-satisfaction and my continued desire to serve and help people when they are facing the most vulnerable time in their life. I find that the training and experience I received during my time with the Army gave me leadership skills that are applicable beyond one’s time in the military. I am happy, and grateful, that my military training, to this day, is useful during disaster responses.
How has your military training been applied throughout your volunteer time with the Red Cross?
My military training has allowed me to take leadership roles when responding to disasters. Maintaining a level head and keeping priorities in order have ensured that I successfully direct and help people which at the end of the day, it’s what it’s all about. As volunteers we take our experience and apply it to help people. That’s why I volunteer. Not for fame or glory … simply to serve people when people most need it. And I’ll keep doing it until I can and hope that others find the inspiration to do the same.
We know that gratitude is not what motivates service. The employee and volunteer veterans and service members of the Red Cross are continually motivated by duty, honor, love of country and fellow citizens. And just like Don, there is a deep-seated responsibility, 24 hours a day, every day of the year, to be ready and prepared to take off when disaster strikes.
Don and fellow volunteers installed free smoke alarms during a Sound the Alarm Event in Joliet, IL
The Red Cross is grateful for the many military veteran volunteers like Don that come forward to dedicate time and talent during local, national, and global disasters. Thank you for your humanitarian service to our country and freedom.
During National Military Appreciation Month, and every day of the year, we listen, we remember, and we acknowledge their service not only during times of crisis in the world, but at all times.
When he’s not volunteering with the Red Cross, Don likes to travel to Hawaii with his wife, Linda, enjoys time with his four sons and their families including three grandsons and one granddaughter.
Services for Military and Veteran Families
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 American Red Cross provides critical services with a caring touch to men and women in all branches of the United States military, active-duty personnel, reservists and members of the National Guard, and their families. Through our Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program, the Red Cross serves service men and women, veterans, and their families. From the day they enlist to providing emergency communications while they are deployed to serving at VA Hospitals across the country, Red Cross volunteers are standing by.
The Red Cross has been serving the military for more than 140 years and has deployed alongside military in every U.S. conflict since the Spanish-American War.
Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager, Connie Esparza