Red Cross takes care of those who serve, past and present
This Veterans Day, I am both grateful to all the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and that I am able to serve them in my current role with the American Red Cross.
I was in the Air Force for 30 years, working first as a physical therapist and ultimately commanding large facilities and squadrons stateside and overseas. Now I am the director of Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces in Maine. Our activities are many, but our mission can be summed up with a simple motto: Taking care of those who serve: yesterday, today and tomorrow.
That promise has its roots in our organization’s earliest days, when our founder Clara Barton brought supplies and care to soldiers on the battlefield. It’s a promise that drives the Red Cross volunteers and employees who are there for service members, veterans and their families, whether it’s here at home in the United States or on bases around the world.
I saw this commitment in action in my military and civilian roles. It starts at enlistment and continues through deployments, re-entry into civilian life and beyond.
If you are in the military, a veteran or a family member, we want you to know about the services available to you. Learn more at www.redcross.org/about-us/our-work/military-families.html. If you are interested in volunteering in any of these areas, we would love to talk to you about how you might help us care for those who serve. Visit www.maineredcross.org and click on Volunteer. You can also call us 874-1192 x122.
The following are some of the services we offer.
Before military personnel head off to basic training, the Red Cross provides an orientation about the ways we can help before, during and after deployment. In the most recent fiscal year, we served 7,674 members of the Armed Forces in this way in Maine.
During deployments, Red Crossers offer services in-theater and domestically. These include emergency communications, which I received many times at all hours as a commander. The Red Cross has a special role of verifying emergencies — like a death or significant illnesses in the family back home. This Verification, the only non-government agency that can verify emergencies, provides information to service members’ commanders so they can make educated decisions about emergency leave. We also can connect service members to emergency financial assistance and help expedite the process.
We can make connections with local community partners that can respond to emergency needs for food and shelter, financial, legal and mental health counseling, respite care and more.
We help manage the stresses of military life and the transition back to civilian life with free workshops. Led by licensed mental health professionals, the offerings include Exploring Stress and Trauma, Identifying Depression, Working Through Anger and Psychological First Aid: Coping With Deployment and offerings for children. In Maine, we brought this type of resiliency training to 188 people last fiscal year and that number is growing.
We provide comfort and services in military hospitals and clinics and at VA facilities. In Maine we have provided Maine Veterans’ Homes with items like iPods and music for memory care, jigsaw puzzles, large-screen televisions, gardening supplies and scrapbooking equipment. We collect and assemble housewarming kits and other items for previously homeless veterans moving into their new homes.
We are awed by all the contributions of veterans. Whether the word “veteran” conjures up for you images of military members fighting on distant shores, troops stationed at a base closer to home or old men marching in parades, they share the common thread of service.
They have given many years, sometimes to the detriment of their bodies, and some paid the ultimate price to protect our freedoms. They humbled themselves to ensure others’ needs were met and that the mission moved forward.
Please take a moment this Veterans Day to reflect on that service and consider serving our veterans who have given so much for us.
Jay S. Cloutier, Colonel, USAF (Ret) is the director of American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces in Maine.