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:

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—AmeriCorps member Brianna Niemi


Ameri Corps Member- National Volunteer Week

Brianna Niemi: Ameri Corps Member- National Volunteer Week

Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”–Martin Luther King Jr.

The Red Cross is more than a humanitarian organization; it’s a humanitarian organization supported by YOU! And many of you who contribute their time and energies to help us meet our vision of preparing communities for unanticipated disasters, ensuring access to lifesaving blood, supporting all members of our armed services and so much more. Hence, we fully support any form of event which acknowledges and celebrates all volunteers, including the National Volunteer Week from April 21- April 27 this year.

This week celebrates ordinary people doing extraordinary things to improve communities across the world. Being an organization which carries out its services majorly through the work of selfless volunteers, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago could not be more excited about this recognition. To highlight the work our strong group of volunteers do, we interviewed Brianna Niemi, one of our devoted AmeriCorps. The AmeriCorps program helps the Red Cross achieve its mission by paying special attention to the neighborhoods and communities that need services the most, yet are least likely to be able to afford them.

Originally from Wisconsin with a Bachelors degree and certification in Social Work, Brianna always wanted to be part of a strong volunteer program like the PeaceCorps and decided to apply for the AmeriCorps program at the Chicago Red Cross. One of her favorite memories was from when she was deployed and was amazed to see the work done by volunteers who came from around the nation. But she was most moved by the family who she helped a day before Thanksgiving whose house was devastated by a terrible fire. That moment, Brianna realized the full impact of the fire felt by the family who were preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday before the fatal incident. But the family was very grateful and thankful of the help provided by the Red Cross and Brianna felt very proud of the work she is able to do along with the rest of the volunteers.

Brianna hopes to continue her passion to help people by enriching her experience with a Master degree in Social Work. To future volunteers, Brianna signs off by saying that the Red Cross is a remarkable organization to work for and contribute to. She is always amazed to see the enthusiasm of the Red Cross volunteers who are also sometimes retirees who come out and help distressed family whose homes have been destroyed. She also cites an example of a student volunteer who also has a full time job, but helps out the Red Cross by responding to fires in the middle of the night! These are the volunteers who carry forward the Red Cross services and touch the lives of countless people.

The Chicago Red Cross salutes these volunteers during the National Volunteer Week and beyond. We are grateful for all that they do. If you would like to make a difference in someone’s life by volunteering, then please visit or email or call (312) 729-6222.
–Written by Amisha Sud