How the Red Cross Helps Veterans

Why the Red Cross Helps

I remember visiting Washington D.C. with my family in high school. We went to the Vietnam War Memorial, and I felt dwarfed by the long black wall with so many names engraved into it. At that time, I did not grasp the immense significance of the names; how each represented a soldier with a family, memories of home and childhood, and plans for what they would do if they returned home. As I get older, approaching college graduation, I learn more and more about everything soldiers risk when they choose to serve our nation. On the Vietnam War Memorial, each name is a reminder of those who died because of the war, who paid the greatest sacrifice a person can make in life.

Our nation goes to great lengths to honor our soldiers, fallen heroes and veterans. Both government programs and non-profit organizations provide aid to veterans throughout their life. One of these non-profits is the Red Cross, and we are so thankful for the opportunity to serve those who have served us first, risking their lives for our safety.

How the Red Cross Helps

Emotional Support

The Red Cross serves our nation’s military in multiple ways. One of these ways is through emotional support. When a soldier leaves home for deployment, both the soldier and his/her family are likely to experience some sort of emotional distress. The soldier may experience the pain of separation from their family or anxiety over their own safety and transitioning into a new realm of life. Many times these soldiers have spouses and children and may fear for their beloveds’ well being. Likewise, the family may experience the pain of separation and fear for their loved one’s safety.

To help people through this, the Red Cross offers workshops to help people cope with deployments, PTSD and trauma. The Red Cross also offers workshops specifically geared towards helping children deal with the deployment of a parent or sibling. The Red Cross has many volunteers who are trained to reach out to and care for soldiers, veterans, and their families when tough times come.

Working with Veterans Affairs

The Red Cross also works together with the Veterans Affairs Health Care Centers, which are government-run clinics dedicated to serving veterans. The Red Cross goes to these locations and helps with weekly food pantries for veterans, in addition to running the No Veteran Dies Alone program. In this program, the Red Cross ensures that veterans without families are not left alone in a hospital, but instead sends volunteers to talk with and care for the ill veterans. Being stuck in a hospital alone is an awful experience, and the Red Cross ensures that this does not happen.

Emergency Communications

The Red Cross also works with the government to help families communicate with their soldiers in a time of emergency. Even when soldiers are overseas, problems can arise back home. Loved ones may become sick or pass away, for example. In these times, the Red Cross gives information to the military about the emergency. This allows the soldier’s commander to make an educated decision about whether emergency leave should be given to the soldier to return home.

Military Entrance Processing Help

The Red Cross also helps at Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) for soldiers preparing to serve the country. These are locations where soldiers go to swear in and complete the enlistment process. When soldiers and their families come, the Red Cross also come and informs the families of the services they offer, as discussed above. The Red Cross also provides details about how families and soldiers can communicate (good days and times for phone calls, for example) and informs every one of the Hero Care App, a phone app that allows the Red Cross’ services to be accessed easily.

How to Volunteer or Get Help

You can see volunteer opportunities for the Red Cross by going to www.redcross.org. Those interested in volunteering with the Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces Dept. should contact Breanna Rodriguez at breanna.rodriguez@redcross.org. Dedicated volunteers are the only way that the Red Cross is able to offer the amount of services that it can to those in need, and we are extremely thankful for their help, and love having new people join our team.

Those who need help can call 1-877-272-7337, the phone number for the Red Cross Emergency Communication Services. This dispatch service will connect you with the people that can help you in the way you need most.

 

Written by Gordon White, Communications Intern for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois 

Red Cross Celebrates Holidays with Veterans

The holiday season is a special time for the valued partnership between the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois and the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center.

The Red Cross was honored to volunteer at the Lovell holiday party. Veterans like Nathaniel Davenport, who served in Vietnam, enjoyed a children’s choir and dessert, along with the company of friends and volunteers.

patientvolunteerandchaplan

A volunteer, Nathaniel Davenport, and Chaplain Lyle Swanson at the holiday party.

“I hope we never have to do something like that again,” Nathaniel reflected with gravity on his time in the military. But while the children sang, he smiled. “The is the best one so far,” said Nathaniel, “The kids are great.”

Nathaniel sat next to a friend, Chaplain Lyle Swanson, a retired navy chaplain who used to deliver Red Cross messages (an emergency request to contact a service member). One time, he received a Red Cross message himself, telling him that his mother had a stroke. The Red Cross enabled him to get home with enough time to say goodbye to his mother before she passed away.

“It was 32 years ago almost to the day,” said Chaplain Swanson.

rco_blog_img_holidayparty

Ralph Barzowcsi and Gloria Cardenas.

Ralph Barzowsci, who also served in Vietnam, was enjoying the festivities with his care companion, Gloria Cardenas. They share meals together and do activities, like go to the mall.

The Red Cross also collected gifts for veteran families in need to make sure their holiday was a special one.

Learn more about both holiday programs in the video below!

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

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