James, a 66-year-old Vietnam War Army veteran, recalls the day he was summoned to an office on base and told he would be granted temporary leave to go home. His mother was dying of cancer and time was running out.
“I made it [home] in time,” he said. “She got to see me before she died and I got to see her before she died.”
It was the Red Cross that was responsible for helping bring James home for that reunion with James and his mother. The Red Cross verifies family emergencies, such as the death or serious illness of a family member, and provides information to military personnel to help them decide about allowing an emergency absence.
So James was glad to reconnect with the Red Cross again at the Nov. 14 “Veterans Stand Down” event hosted by The Midnight Mission in downtown Los Angeles’s Skid Row district, where many homeless veterans make their home.
The Red Cross was among nearly 40 agencies that participated in the half-day event offering employment, housing, health services and counseling to homeless military veterans. The event was held in conjunction with Veterans Day.
Red Cross L.A. Region representatives and volunteers distributed more than 200 “comfort kits” containing hygiene products such as shampoo, deodorant, bar soap, a hand towel, shaving razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, and information on vet-specific resources as well as disaster preparedness. The items were assembled and donated to Red Cross by Alcoa Foundation..
Many of those who came by for a comfort kit stayed to hear from volunteer Mike Farrar about the Veterans History Project, an oral history collection project that Red Cross participates in.
James was one of many veterans who stopped by for a comfort kit and shared their Red Cross experiences during their service. Army veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Bruce Gorman who served in Spain in 1967 remembered receiving hot food from the Red Cross when rations were short.
“I was very happy about it because if they wouldn’t have helped, I would have had a serious problem.”
Thanks to SAF (Service to the Armed Forces) volunteer Mike Farrar, National Program and Response Corps (AmeriCorps) members Nidhi Chillara and Tori Kanhayuwa and Disaster Services volunteer Jackie Bailey, who supported this event.