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Sisters in Service

When asked whether her sister talked her into going overseas with the American Red Cross, Abigail Canady and Ingrid Torres just look at each other and laugh.

The influence of an older sibling can lead to similar tastes in music, clothes and hobbies. In the case of these two sisters, it has led to careers of service.

Torres, 30, has worked for the Red Cross for eight years, including time spent as head of the Red Cross office at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center (NNMC), a facility that receives wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Recently married, Torres and her husband, an active-duty member of the Air Force, are currently stationed in Germany on a three-year assignment. But in an ironic reversal of roles, it will be Torres deploying to a war zone in a few weeks. As a member of Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF), Torres will serve as team leader for a group of Red Cross staff at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.

Torres has worked overseas before, but as she said, “This deployment has a different feeling.” Now married and fully immersed in the military community, it feels more personal, she explained. The military can be a small world, so Torres knows that those she helps could very well be friends or colleagues of her husband.

Canady, 28, joined SAF with something of a head start. Already familiar with the military, hearing about Torres’ work over the years has also given her the advantage of knowing what she’s getting into, as she put it.

Canady worked in hotel management prior to joining the Red Cross. A desire for a different career—one where she could make a personal impact—spurred her to ask Torres for information about becoming a Red Cross employee. Canady will soon head to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, for her first deployment.

Will being separated by different work shifts, countries and time zones hinder their ability to keep in touch? Both laugh and seem confident that the power of e-mail—which they already “abuse” like instant messaging—will see them through.

The American Red Cross has supported the U.S. military and their families for more than a century, from the Civil War in the 1860s to today’s deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read more about our work on