On Friday, September 21, the American Red Cross Overseas Association (ARCOA) held a memorial ceremony to recognize deployed Red Cross staff from 1918 to 2012 at Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C. ARCOA, whose members include men and women who have served with the Red Cross overseas during war and peacetime, seeks to renew friendships created during service and keep alive the spirit that prompted that service.
Jeanne and Larry Farnum traveled from Tucson, Arizona to attend the ARCOA memorial ceremony where Jeanne was to be honored for her volunteer service in the Red Cross during World War II. The couple recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.
“I’m going to marry that girl,” Larry recounted telling his friend when he first saw Jeanne at the age of seventeen. Not too long after, Larry would enlist in the Air Force in 1942 following the attack at Pearl Harbor, proposing to Jeanne before he deployed to the South Pacific. At Jeanne’s first opportunity, she would join her fiancé in service to their country, volunteering with the American Red Cross where she would deploy to Italy to work on a Clubmobile. The Clubmobiles provided hot coffee, fresh donuts and a connection home for hundreds of thousands of servicemen fighting on the frontlines.
Women volunteers like Jeanne Farnum who worked in the Red Cross Clubmobiles during World War II were honored this past May, when Senator Susan Collins joined by twelve of her colleagues sponsored Resolution 471 to honor the self-sacrifice of these women, as well as those women who lost their lives in service to their country.
“We are all part of that long ‘red’ line,” said Deborah MacSwain, president of ARCOA as she looked at the men and women attending the ceremony who had served the Red Cross abroad. “The resolution is a reflection of all of us.”
Recognized Red Cross staff included:
At the close of the ceremony, roll call was read of those Red Cross workers who passed away over the past year and a wreath was laid in the shadow of a sculpture that depicts three Red Cross workers reaching to help a fallen soldier. Its inscription reads, “In honor and memory of the men and women of the American Red Cross who gave their lives in service to mankind.” It was a somber reminder of the dedication and sacrifice of Red Cross workers who serve overseas in the face of unimaginable suffering and personal tragedy.
“Despite these tragedies, we get up the next morning, we go to work; we do everything we can for the individual who is in front of us, who we are there to help … We focus on the mission and carry on,” said Carrie Santos, senior director of International Policy and External Affairs at the American Red Cross. “That is why when we return home, back from the field, it is so important for us to pay tribute to our fallen colleagues. That is why we are here today …Today it is our mission to remember.”
From the women who worked in Clubmobiles during World War II to the Red Cross individuals who serve abroad today, ARCOA brings together these individuals to remember and honor their compassionate commitment to humanity. And through each of them, the spirit of service lives on.
ARCOA, organized by men and women who served overseas with the American Red Cross during World War II in 1949, is an independent national organization with a fellowship of men and women who have, across many decades and countless miles, experienced the rewards and hazards of serving abroad. These deployed Red Cross staffers have assisted U.S. military personnel, helped disaster sufferers, lent knowledge, and supported Red Cross and Red Crescent societies as they seek to broaden their capabilities.