Providing support to the military was the original reason for the Red Cross’s beginnings. Clara Barton first provided soldiers with food, clothing and other comfort items during the Civil War. She also went door to door recruiting the first volunteers to assist her on the battlefield. Her unwavering gratitude and support to help American soldiers continues today, throughout the world, wherever American troops are stationed. Peter M. Brown, executive CEO of the America Red Cross said, “The Red Cross Service to Armed Forces Program assists our military service members and their families in so many ways. We are honored to help them and remain grateful for their service to our country.”
One of the initiatives that the Service to Armed Forces Program (SAF) Program is known for is the transmittal of emergency communications between a family and their service member, during an emergency. Whether it’s good news like the birth of a baby or sad news like the death of a loved one, it is often difficult for a family member to reach their service member who may be serving overseas in an undisclosed located. The Red Cross SAF Program, through the Emergency Communications Center, can relay the emergency communication to the soldier, so that, if possible, he or she may make plans to return home.
Another SAF initiative revolves around deployment. Pre-deployment, post-deployment and family coping classes and programs are all available to both service members and their families. Here in the Lehigh Valley, our SAF Program held several classes for children of military families whose service member was getting ready to deploy to the Middle East. The curriculum included preparedness and cultural training. Younger children were provided with a class on astronomy, specifically, constellations and staying connected with the family member by observing the stars. Older children created a secret code and a wallet to exchange messages with the deployed parent. In addition to active military, the Red Cross supports veterans. Throughout northeast Pennsylvania, numerous programs and services are available to those who served, including: Veterans Transportation Services, which helps veterans get to and from doctors appointments, free of charge.
In addition, SAF Director Jennifer Pierce, along with dedicated SAF volunteers, delivered therapeutic medical supplies, valued at $4,000, to be used for patients’ rehabilitative programs and medical services
to the Veterans Hospital in Wilkes- Barre. Also, the Red Cross and Wounded Warrior Project are working together to offer programs and activities to support wounded, ill or injured service members and their family members.
One of the largest SAF initiatives is the Holiday Mail for Heroes Program. Greeting cards, some handmade by children, are personally signed from people throughout the U.S., wishing those who serve, or have served our country, a happy holiday season and thanking them, personally. Cards are collected from October through early December and are delivered to veteran’s hospitals, VFW posts and other military instillations. Jennifer Pierce, SAF Director said, “The Holiday Mail for Heroes Campaign provides an opportunity for our nation to offer our service members, past and present, with messages of thanks and well wishes. Receiving a handmade or handwritten card reassures a veteran that we care for them, remember them and are grateful for their sacrifices.
If you would like to get involved in HMFH, contact Pierce at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter, 610-865-4400 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To volunteer, call Susan Kalkhuis-Beam, at 610-865-4400 or email@example.com