April is the Month of the Military Child and the American Red Cross recognizes the outstanding support of its military youth volunteers during a time our country sets aside to recognizes the contributions and challenges young people face as members of a military family.
When a child has a parent in the Armed Forces, that child is serving their country right alongside the service member parent. Military children make many sacrifices – having a parent deploy and moving frequently, starting over and making new friends at every location are just a few of the challenges they face. However, despite these sacrifices, our military youth demonstrate how they overcome obstacles, while serving as role models for other children, going above and beyond in their dedication to community service.
Military youth Fred Taylor, an active participant of the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (NMCP) Red Cross summer youth volunteer program, has demonstrated his commitment to volunteer service and responsibility to his community from a very young age. “I have gotten inspiration from my parents and community,” states Taylor. “Growing up, my life was nothing but volunteering with my family through church, Boy Scouts, and the community. It was never an option; it was something that my family helped me understand needed to be done.”
When asked about being part of a military family, Taylor shared, “It makes me feel proud to understand that I can try and repay this country and all its people for helping me get to where I am today, by giving back to them and their families in the time they need someone most.” As for joining the Red Cross, Taylor explained, “Helping people was always a big deal to me. My experience with the Red Cross has impacted me to do more for others. I thought it was the most enjoyable experience I’ve ever had and wish to recommend it to any youth wishing to help make a difference.”
Abigail Hancock is a Red Cross military youth volunteer who dedicated her summer to volunteering at NMCP. “I think just about every military child lives in awe of their parents, even if they won’t admit it,” she shared. “My dad has always been an inspiration to me. His hard work, dedication and professionalism encourage me to be no less than my best. My mom has taught me patience and that ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way!’”
“Red Cross made me want to stand up for the things I believed in,” she continued. “I was in a school that had a small military population and was full of bullies. Being a member of the Red Cross volunteer program [helped me further develop] the skills to speak out against these bullies and make a difference in my community for all the students – both military and civilian.” she said. She recommends the Red Cross volunteer program to any military child. “Even if you aren’t interested in the medical field, there’s a place for you at NMCP and the skills and friends you develop there will last a lifetime, just like the memories you’ve made at each and every duty station.”
Some Red Cross youth volunteers continue to support Red Cross volunteer programs as adults. “I was a Red Cross volunteer with my grandparents before nursing school,” shared Naomi Ramshur, NMCP Clinic Manager, youth volunteer supervisor and military spouse. “I believe my experiences helped me see what my future career goals really were. I loved being with the nurses and seeing their interactions with the families and patients.”
As an adult providing Red Cross youth volunteer opportunities, Ramshur said, “They are eager, young and impressionable. They tend to be dedicated and goal oriented - otherwise who would spend their summer hanging out with us? We as health care workers have the opportunity to make a huge impression. I love seeing [the youth volunteers] come back for a follow-on summer. It is an honor to know we made a lasting impression.”
Red Cross volunteer LaFrancis Francis, captain, U.S. Navy, Retired, formerly served as Youth Chairman. Her two adult daughters participated in the Red Cross youth volunteer program as children. One went on to become a physician and the other a successful realtor and hospitality marketing businesswoman. “A child’s first opportunity as a volunteer to experience the work world was what my children got out of it most,” she said. “[The experience] showcased career fields and taught them how to be good workers. The Red Cross helped them give outside of themselves – true altruism.”
Red Cross military youth volunteers are heroes. They support Red Cross units both here in the United States and overseas. While facing situations which can be difficult, they simultaneously work to improve the quality of life of those around them.