Paul Stewart did not like to talk to his children about fighting in the war. Instead, he told them about meeting the American Red Cross in the Pacific. When his ship came to shore, the Red Cross waited with telephones for the servicemen, giving those aboard the opportunity to hear their loved ones voices.
“That meant so much to him and he has never forgotten it or forgotten to mention it to me through the years,” said his daughter Sandra Stewart Matthews. “We hold a special place in our hearts for the Red Cross.”
Stewart served as a Marine in Okinawa and the Solomon Islands during World War II. Just 17 years old when Stewart joined the war effort, the Red Cross provided the rare occasion to speak with his father back home in Tennessee.
To support our men and women in uniform, the Red Cross recruited more than 104,000 nurses who served in military hospitals at home and overseas during World War II. In addition, Red Cross staff provided emergency message services and distributed 27 million packages to American and Allied prisoners of war. The Red Cross also collected 13.3 million units of blood for American servicemen.
About 70 years after the war, Stewart once again found himself a recipient of Red Cross support. On March 6, 2015, he lost his home in Jackson, Tennessee when a dryer fire ignited and spread throughout his house. Thankfully, no one was injured, but everything that Stewart and his wife had collected over their 64 years of marriage was gone. In the aftermath, the local Red Cross chapter in Tennessee reached out to provide financial assistance to help Stewart and his family recover from their loss.
“You gave him some happiness, and reaffirmed what he already knew about how wonderful and helpful the Red Cross is,” said (Stewart) Matthews. “You are a true blessing to others.”
Home fires are the most common disaster. In fact, every eight minutes the Red Cross responds to a home fire or other disaster. While these home fires often do not make national headlines, they are no less tragic to the people it affects such as Stewart and his family. Thankfully, with the support of the Red Cross, it is tragedy they do not have to face alone.
Editorial note: Since the story was originally published, sadly, Paul Stewart, age 89, has passed away. The Red Cross offers its heartfelt condolences to the family and truly appreciates their outreach to share Stewart’s story.