Red Cross Month: Service to the Armed Forces

The American Red Cross helps members of the military, veterans, their families and caregivers cope with the challenges of service, providing more than 513,000 services each year through a worldwide network of volunteers.

Military and veteran communities face unique circumstances. The Red Cross offers a variety of resiliency workshops with effective tools for the whole family to help improve communications, face challenges and manage stress. These programs are free, confidential and offered in person or online by licensed mental health professionals.

The “Coping with Deployments” program helps military families to manage stress and communicate effectively while their service member is deployed. Participants learn how to help their children cope with stress, in addition to building a family communication plan and discussing psychological tips on handling separation. These workshops are available in person or as a self-guided online course.

Reconnection workshops are designed to help service members, veterans, their families and caregivers learn how to cope with military-specific challenges and are available for adults, teenagers and children. These discussion-based workshops encourage participants to share their experiences and practice resilience-building activities to help reconnect with family members, work environments and communities.

Mind-body workshops focus on how emotional, mental, social and spiritual factors can directly affect physical health, and provide tools to stay grounded and refocus during times of stress. One workshop teaches participants foundational techniques like mindfulness, breathing and stretching, which are proven to lower stress and improve well-being. Another workshop guides participants through techniques for personal and professional growth, such as drawing, journaling and meditation. These workshops were developed and reviewed by a team of experts in mental health, mind-body practice, military culture, and complementary and integrative healing.

The Red Cross Military and Veteran Caregiver Network offers peer-based support to those providing care to wounded, ill or aging service members and veterans. This is a global network created by caregivers for caregivers, supporting one another to decrease feelings of isolation and increase feelings of connection, hope and well-being. The network also supports veterans who are caregivers.

The Red Cross works with military aid societies to connect eligible military, retired military, veterans and their families with financial assistance in times of hardship. This assistance can include funds for emergency travel, food and shelter and more.

Volunteers are needed to support the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces mission. Please visit redcross.org/volunteer to sign up as a volunteer. Also, visit redcross.org/saf to learn more about how the Red Cross serves members of the military and their families.

In March, the American Red Cross of Illinois is honoring the people who make its mission possible every day during its annual Red Cross Month celebration – a national tradition started nearly 80 years ago when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the first national Red Cross Month proclamation recognizing those who give back through the American Red Cross. Each U.S. president has issued a proclamation ever since. Join Red Cross Month by visiting redcross.org to make a financial donation, sign up to give blood, become a volunteer or take a class in lifesaving skills, such as first aid and CPR.

Written by Illinois Region Communications Manager Brian Williamsen

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.

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