When asked, most people easily associate the American Red Cross with its proven track record of disaster response. Or with the critical role the organization plays in replenishing the nation's blood supply.
Lesser known — at least today — is the key role the organization has historically played in support of the courageous members of the U.S. military. But in truth, support for American soldiers has been a mainstay of Red Cross operations since Clara Barton founded the organization in 1881.
Because of the American Red Cross's Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program, military men and women — and their families — receive a range of important support services (see Supporting America's Military Families).
But, as with every aspect of the Red Cross operation, the delivery of Red Cross services to the armed forces is dependent on the tireless and selfless people who are the backbone of the SAF program.
Two such volunteers were honored recently for their Red Cross service to our military. At a special luncheon this past November, the San Francisco-based chapter of the Red Cross Tiffany Society paid tribute to Joy (Klingler) Guldbech and Calvin Carter.
Joy's Red Cross story began in 1959. A recent graduate of Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, she was inspired to support our military by an article she read about a California girl who went to Korea.
This sounded like quite the adventure to Joy, who promptly joined the Red Cross. She was assigned to the Army Hospital in Fort Knox, Kentucky as a recreational specialist. Her job there was to help patients relax; to make that happen, she distributed everything from athletic equipment to board games, and organized trips to such destinations as the Kentucky Derby.
After two weeks of training in Washington, D.C., Joy's next Red Cross assignment was in Korea, where she and her colleagues met with groups as large as 200 in large mess halls or as small as 5 in remote camps. No matter the size or location, the job was the same: help the service people get their minds off their military job. Whether it was working from a mobile canteen, playing "game shows" of their own creation, acting as DJs while playing records, or just passing out doughnuts in the venerable role of Doughnut Dollies, Joy and her colleagues were the face of home.
Joy describes her time with the Red Cross as “the most unique year I’ve ever had.” She had to cope with extreme Korean weather, and she missed her own family and friends from back home. But Joy fondly speaks of the many great people she met during her Red Cross deployments, some of whom she is still in touch with today.
Calvin Carter's SAF path was even more perilous than Joy's. Deployed service members and their families experience quite a bit of stress, and Calvin’s Red Cross job was to be the communications link between service personnel and their families back home, often serving as a counseling and problem-solving resource.
Cal completed his military service obligation as an officer in the 1960s with service in Korea. He met Red Cross people who positively influenced him and decided to join the organization in 1970. His initial Red Cross assignment was in Treasure Island, California, a precursor to a year-long tour in Viet Nam.
His communications responsibilities were of an emergency and non-emergency variety. Emergencies often meant the death of loved ones back in the states, while non-emergency communications were often about the problems faced by families back home. Cal worked with service people to help them get their Emergency Leaves, and he helped them cope with other problems such as spouses not getting their military pay. In both cases, Cal applied his considerable people and problem-solving skills to assuage the concerns of those in the Combat Zone.
After his Red Cross tour in Viet Nam, Cal went on to complete assignments in Germany, Washington, California, Arizona and ultimately Hawaii before leaving the Red Cross.
For its entire existence, the American Red Cross has made support for the military a key component of its mission. The service of these two veterans of SAF — Joy Guldbech and Calvin Carter — personifies this spirit and commitment perfectly.
About the author: Lawrence Dietz is a Colonel (Retired), US Army Reserve, as well as a dedicated Red Cross volunteer in the Silicon Valley Chapter.
Caption: Joy Guldbech and Calvin Carter (center) were honored at a San Francisco luncheon recently for their Red Cross service to our military. Accompanying the honorees at the Red Cross Tiffany Society event were their spouses, James Guldbech (left) and Kwi-Suk Carter (right).
Click here to view more pictures from the event.