Current and former Red Cross staff, family members and visiting dignitaries gathered at American Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C., today to honor Red Cross workers who have served overseas, and to memorialize those who lost their lives in that service.
The American Red Cross Overseas Association (ARCOA) holds an event each year in the nation’s capital to honor these men and women. Nearly 500 Red Cross employees and volunteers died in service during wars in the 20th century, including 70 men and 330 women during World War I.
A group of Red Cross workers created ARCOA after World War II, with the hopes of maintaining friendships formed in wartime and preserving the stories of those who served.
Lieutenant General Paul Mikolashek (USA Ret.) gave the keynote address, describing how the Red Cross has touched his life through his family and his own military service.
“The Red Cross is always there—they’re always selfless, they’re always focused on the soldier and on the family,” Mikolashek said.
Elizabeth Dole, former senator and president of the American Red Cross from 1991 to 1999, was also in attendance at the ARCOA ceremony. Jerry DeFrancisco, president of humanitarian services at the Red Cross, gave tribute to Dole’s commitment to SAF during her tenure.
Friday’s event included recognition of Red Cross staff who worked abroad with Service to the Armed Forces (SAF). This recognition was part of the “Service to the Armed Forces: Our Legacy Continues” project, which aims to document, honor and recognize the tremendous legacy of Red Cross staff who supported the U.S. military serving on combat, peacekeeping, peace-making and humanitarian missions.
Debby MacSwain and Kay Walton, co-chairs of the Legacy Project, both served overseas with the Red Cross, in Vietnam and Korea, respectively. The two women were honored for their work on the project, which will now take them to Europe and the Far East, where they will bestow recognition upon Red Cross staff currently serving in those regions.Terry Hitchcock and Joyce Bottenberg lay a wreath to honor former Red Cross staff who have died in the past year. Sherri Brown (center), head of Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces, with Kay Walton (left) and Debby MacSwain, co-chairs of the SAF Legacy Project.
More than 500 people have registered with the Legacy Project so far, and the number is expected to grow as the project expands across communities in the U.S. Those seeking more information about the Legacy Project can contact SAFLegacy@usa.redcross.org.
Sherri Brown, senior vice president of SAF, closed the ceremony by expressing her appreciation of all those who have served overseas with the Red Cross.
“I can truly say that those of us who serve today only hope that we can move, touch and inspire others at least half as much as those we have honored here this afternoon,” said Brown.
From the Civil War when Clara Barton first provided aid on the battlefield to the current war in Afghanistan, there have been 27 different overseas operations and wars to which Red Cross staff have deployed. Today, there are more than 100 American Red Cross workers serving overseas, everywhere from Afghanistan to Haiti. These staff members work on U.S. military installations and alongside troops in forward-deployed locations, providing emergency communications between service members and their families back home. They respond to international disasters, and educate people on disease prevention and disaster preparedness.