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In Baghdad, it’s a Family Affair

Sometimes life’s puzzle pieces fall into place, and in ways you never expect.

Annmarie Cannan was living in North Carolina when she was laid off. After losing her job and place of residence, her daughter Jennipher told her, “Well, now you can move down here with me.”

“Down here” was Fort Bragg, N.C. Jennipher was stationed there with the Army.

The change in location didn’t erase the fact that Cannan was out of work and bored. She decided she wanted to volunteer on the military base, but wasn’t sure what opportunities there were. After asking around, she was referred to the Red Cross, which has an office on the military installation.

Cannan began assisting with casework, helping service members and their families with emergencies and other needs. Casework was right up her alley, and she fell in love with the work.

“I have a lot of empathy for what these families are going through, because I’ve experienced firsthand a lot of the situations in those messages,” Cannan said, referring to the emergency messages the Red Cross verifies and dispatches from families in the U.S. to their loved ones deployed overseas.

Cannan was sold on doing full-time casework for the Red Cross, so she applied for employment at a station in the U.S. She did not succeed at first, but Wendy Dyer, the Red Cross station manager at Fort Bragg, told her not to give up.

After applying again, Cannan was accepted as a reservist, meaning that she could be sent to one of the Red Cross offices in Iraq, Kuwait or Afghanistan. Jennipher, 25, was just beginning her first deployment to Baghdad, and the two joked about both of them ending up in Iraq at the same time. Neither thought it would actually happen.

One month after Jennipher left for Baghdad, Cannan found out they wouldn’t be separated for long. She was assigned to work in the Baghdad office, beginning in July. After telling her daughter the news, Jennipher responded, “Bring it on!”

Mother and daughter being in Baghdad at the same time but in different capacities is noteworthy enough, but there’s another element that makes it special for them both.

Jennipher was promoted to captain on September 2, and Cannan was there to “pin” her during the ceremony in Baghdad. “I haven’t missed a pinning yet,” Cannan said.

It is an apt symbol of the strong connection they’ve established since Jennipher joined the military and Cannan moved to N.C. Working for Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces has given Cannan something special—both personal fulfillment and a deeper understanding of her daughter’s life in the Army.