Across the country, communities are slowly starting to open up just in time for summer. The first long weekend of the season is at hand. This extended Memorial Day weekend, the American Red Cross joins the nation in remembering and honoring the lives and sacrifices of the fallen U.S. service members from America’s beginning to today. These brave men and women of the United States military made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our country.
The stories of bravery will not soon be forgotten. Many family members of fallen soldiers have chosen to continue their service member’s legacy by volunteering with the Red Cross. Through the Red Cross, they help military families in need of relief. These Gold Star families continue to share the story of their loved ones through their actions.
JANICE CHANCE: “HIS DESIRE TO CHANGE THE WORLD MADE A DIFFERENCE”
“Jesse was always a leader ever since he was little. He loved building relationships in school, church and our community. So, it came as no surprise to me that he rose to ranks of Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps,” Janice Chance recalls. Melton’s service even inspired his little sister, Janine, to join the U.S. Army.
Capt. Jesse Melton III USMC served for 11 years and would eventually deploy to Iraq and then finally to Afghanistan in 2008. A few months into his deployment to Afghanistan, on September the ninth, Melton was asked by a fellow Marine to take his place on the convoy that day. That would be the fateful day that Jesse and his team made the ultimate sacrifice. While patrolling, Melton and his fellow Marines were killed by an IED detonated by an enemy combatant.
Janice Chance shares, “Immediately after Jesse’s death, I made a decision. I committed myself to helping military and veteran communities in need across the country. When I thought of all that the Red Cross had done for me and my family during our time of need, I decided to become a volunteer for the organization. I remembered how the Red Cross was there for me and my family right after Jesse’s passing. They helped us with emergency calls to our military family members and even helped bring Jesse’s half-sister home so she could attend her brother’s funeral.”
Today, Chance continues sharing Jesse’s story through her volunteer service with the American Red Cross. Chance is a retired nurse, so she can be found today helping soldiers and their families at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. She also helped people as the former president and is the current chaplain with the American Gold Star Mothers Maryland Chapter, Inc. Chance said, “My desire is to spend my time interacting with our heroes, just like my son who served alongside his fellow Marines.”
JENNIFER ALLEN: “SIX DECADES LATER, HIS MEMORY IS STILL ALIVE”
Jennifer Allen started working with the Red Cross back in 1964 when she joined to help at Red Cross dental clinics. “I remember starching my hat and uniform and going in every day as a dental assistant. That was back before my husband went to Vietnam.”
In 1967, Allen’s husband left to fight in the Vietnam War. Allen and their two daughters, an infant and toddler at the time, waited in the U.S. for his return. Unfortunately, that day never came. In March of 1968, he was killed in action in Vietnam. “I showed my daughters so many pictures and told stories of their dad. We lived in the same town [where] he and I met, so I would take them to the movies where we would go on dates. I read them his letters.”
Over six decades later, the tradition of keeping their father’s memory alive continues to this day. “I had to do something, I’m not the type to sit in my home. I had to get out and move and help,” Allen said. Today, she supports service members by making sure to be there when the soldiers leave and when they return home from overseas. “After Vietnam, many of [our] soldiers did not come home or they come to little or no fanfare. I want to make sure that never happens again.” Allen honors fallen soldiers by laying wreaths on their cemetery markers. She shares that her daughters help her along the way.
“I think every military cemetery across the country should be loaded with wreaths. And I think every American needs to know what the military does for us. Keeping the memory of those who have passed alive is crucial. I can’t think of a better way to honor them than supporting our service members today.”