A team of four American Red Cross workers are gearing up for their first overseas assignments in Kuwait and Afghanistan, where they will connect families through emergency communication services and morale-boosting activities for the troops. The team is part of Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF), which provides support to U.S. service members during times of peace and war.
The Red Cross Reservists have been training in Fort Sill, Okla., since February and will depart for their four-month deployments in March, when Hope Bryant and James Bordonaro will travel to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and Keith Hensley and Jason Rineheart will head for Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
“Our service members are willing to sacrifice a lot for us so that we can live the lives we enjoy as Americans. The least we can do is support them and their families,” says Bryant, who has served as a Red Cross volunteer at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash.
“I grew up with it, and it’s not expected of me, but serving others is what we do,” says Bordonaro, whose family has a long legacy of military service. While this is his first deployment for SAF, Bordonaro has served for five years as a Red Cross volunteer, responding to hundreds of house fires, tornadoes and major floods.Until being deployed overseas in early March, the SAF Reservist team will continue to train at Fort Sill, Okla. From left: Jason Rineheart, Hope Bryant, James Bordonaro and Keith Hensley.
Hensley and Rineheart are both new to Red Cross service, and are enthusiastic about the opportunity to help service members who are far from home.
“Just to be involved in something bigger than yourself is amazing,” says Rineheart. He notes that while only four Red Cross workers are currently assisting in Afghanistan, the support they provide will help boost the morale and connections with home for the approximately 89,000 members of the U.S. Armed Forces stationed there.
The military and the families of those who serve rely on the Red Cross to verify and quickly relay confidential information about family emergencies to military commanders, enabling prompt decisions about granting leave to service members. Even though the Red Cross ceased its operations in Iraq in August 2011, it still maintains a robust presence in the Middle East, Europe and Asia to help those service members who are stationed overseas remain in touch with loved ones.
“I think it will be a great learning experience and I will get to make a big impact on others’ lives,” says Hensley. “I get to be there for someone when they need real assistance and see the impact of what our service members are doing overseas,” he adds. “It’s a great opportunity and I’m blessed to do it.”