By Kathleen Dillon, American Red Cross volunteer
For young men and women enlisting in the military, departing for basic training is a day filled with mixed emotions. There’s fear and uncertainty about the challenges that lie ahead. But there’s also a feeling of excitement to serve the United States and its people.
For American Red Cross Service to Armed Forces volunteer Mel Morton, who provides presentations to service members on the day they leave for basic training, being part of a person’s transition into military life, is something that has brought meaning and fulfillment to his life.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” he said.
Prior to departing for basic training, military members and their families are provided with Get to Know Us Before You Need Us information referral presentations by the Red Cross. Information is provided regarding services offered by the Red Cross, including contacting service members in case of a family emergency and providing emergency financial assistance. Because service members can be deployed all over the world throughout their time in the military, connectivity can be a barrier to getting in contact with loved ones in times of emergency. The Red Cross breaks down these barriers by sending urgent messages to ships at sea, embassies worldwide and isolated military units.
Over the course of several years, Morton has provided this presentation to thousands of service members entering the military. During the Vietnam War, Morton was registered with the Selective Service, but his number was never called. Now after a life filled with a career in the pharmaceutical industry and a decades’ long marriage, Morton considers his work with the Red Cross to be time dedicated to the nation.
“I never served in the military myself but in a way, I feel this is my service to the country,” he said.
Morton’s exceptional work at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey has been recognized by staff across all five service branches. He is regularly commended by senior executives on post for the lives that he has touched through his outreach to new service members. In 2015, he received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Army commending him for his commitment to the men and women of the nation’s military.
Outside of his work with Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst’s Military Entrance Processing Station, Morton also volunteers with other Red Cross initiatives. After Superstorm Sandy, he was part of a team that opened a shelter in Burlington County serving displaced families in the community. He is also trained to respond to local house fires, providing comfort items and emotional support to affected families. Morton is quick to note that these experiences have allowed him to grow and better himself. He encourages others to volunteer with the Red Cross and get involved in the community.
Transitioning into the military can be an anxiety-filled experience for a military member and his or her family. By letting families know that the Red Cross stands beside them in times of need, members are given reassurance that no matter where their service brings them, they will never be serving alone.
HOW TO CONTACT THE RED CROSS FOR ASSISTANCE The American Red Cross Emergency Communications Center is available to help 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 1-877-272-7337 (toll-free) or contact your local Red Cross.
SERVICE TO THE ARMED FORCES The Red Cross has been helping members of our country’s armed forces, our veterans and civilians for more than a century. Today the Red Cross provides more than 352,000 services to members of the military and veterans every year.
Red Cross services are possible thanks to volunteer spirit and the generosity of the American public. The men and women of the American Red Cross continue to show our appreciation for the dedicated service and patriotic sacrifices of America’s armed forces and their families and are proud to support them wherever and whenever they need us.