On May 14, 2014, Bridgette Nugent, Greater New York Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces and International Services regional case manager, had the honor of presenting Helen Olson, 99, of Manhattan, with a letter of recognition from Cliff Holtz, American Red Cross president of humanitarian services. Nugent also presented Olson with a special Red Cross pin.
The award was made in honor of Olson’s sister, Jean Thomas, who served overseas with the Red Cross during World War II and lost her life when the plane she was on went down.
“She was a happy person and people really liked her,” Olson said. “She decided to go overseas with the Red Cross in June 1944. We didn’t know where she would be sent.”
Thomas was sent to Naples, the most bombed Italian city during World War II. She was on a flight from Naples to Sardinia when the plane went down. It was never recovered.
The letter of recognition for Thomas read, in part, “You are an important part of the thousands of Americans who answered the Red Cross call to duty, were mobilized, sent into harm’s way, and lived under difficult conditions to provide a myriad of services to members of the United States military since the Civil War.”
Olson herself also served with the Red Cross, working in the Home Service Department in St. Louis and later as a case management supervisor in Springfield, Illinois.
The Red Cross is working to honor the service of people like Olson and Thomas through a project called, “Service to the Armed Forces: Our Legacy Continues.”
“It’s a big story,” Olson said. “For years I kept meeting alumni. Even I was not aware of how many served overseas with the Red Cross.”
Olson’s nephew in Pennsylvania nominated Thomas for a Service to the Armed Forces Legacy recognition. Those seeking more information about the Legacy Project can contact SAFLegacy@usa.redcross.org.