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

A Simple Thank You Isn’t Always Enough

Volunteers of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago proudly said, “Thank you for your service, sir,” while they handed out hundreds of wallets and other services to unnamed veterans during the Veteran Stand-Down Event on Chicago’s Southside. The Veteran Stand-Down event that took place on June 22, 2012 assisted homeless veterans with food, clothing and other essential necessities. These heroes also received health screenings, Veteran’s Affairs and Social Security benefits counseling, and referrals to a variety of other services, such as health care, housing, employment and substance use treatment.

One of the many veterans in line waiting for services was George Griffin, who was helped by the VA for his drinking and drug addiction. George admired the work that the American Red Cross had done for him when he had a house fire. As George recalled his encounter with the Red Cross, he was joined by his brother, Maurice Garrett, a fellow veteran who served six years in the military.

Like George, the American Red Cross had made a lifelong impression on Maurice. Maurice wasn’t able to communicate with his family about his whereabouts after he returned to the US from active duty abroad.  His mother was deeply concerned and contacted the American Red Cross for assistance. The American Red Cross was able to locate Maurice and reconnect him with his family. “[The American Red Cross] got me a ride home,” Maurice said fondly.

The brothers were not only thankful that the American Red Cross was there to help them but also to the other organizations that came out that day. The American Red Cross was able to be a part of their lives once again in another way that they hadn’t imagined. This dynamic duo even talked about someday volunteering with the American Red Cross so they can make an impact on someone else’s life like the other volunteers had done to theirs.

-Written By Amisha Sud and Lindsey Warneke