This holiday season, one family is working with the American Red Cross in Korea and Iraq to serve troops and their families in meaningful ways.
When Laurel Stone first took her two young boys to volunteer with the Red Cross as Cub Scouts in 2007, she never imagined that the family would don red vests, roll up their sleeves and build a decades-long legacy of service. Today, mother and sons have a combined 42 years of service with the Red Cross and are committed to serving their local military community.
“Service is at the heart of our family,” Laurel said in an interview from her home at a military base in Korea, where she serves as a public affairs officer. As an Army veteran, she views her family’s connection to the Red Cross as integral to the role of the military community.
“As a military family, we know that volunteers are what make it all work. If we didn’t have volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to put on the programs we do for soldiers and families. Volunteers do so much to improve morale and provide programs at our overseas bases,” she said.
Stone’s sons, Liam Baek and Morgan Stone, both based in Korea, now also work for the Red Cross. “From Cub Scouts to Eagle Scouts, to volunteers and now employees, I guess we just never stopped working with the Red Cross,” Baek said.
Today, Baek works with the Red Cross on a base in Korea — a role he’s filling for Morgan who is currently on a five-month deployment to Iraq with the Red Cross.
This Christmas, giving back is central to the family’s plans. Mother and son, Liam, are spending the holidays serving troops holiday meals in Korea while Stone’s other son, Morgan, assists service members on the ground in Iraq.
RED CROSSERS DEPLOYED OVERSEAS Laurel Stone says that most people don’t know the Red Cross deploys with the military. “Red Crossers, like our soldiers, go into potentially dangerous areas. They too assume risk and they are willing to do that,” she said.
“It takes a special kind of person to be a soldier and to take the oath to go do what's needed. Red Crossers are the same — it takes a special kind of person to be able to deploy in this role.”
Morgan Stone says he was eager go on his first deployment. “Being able to go to these remote sites and work directly with service members to improve morale, provide services and resources seemed like a lot of fun,” he said from a training stop in Kuwait.
“It upholds the long tradition of Red Crossers who have served alongside service members since the Civil War. And my role on this deployment is in line with how the Red Cross traditionally served the military since the Korean War.”
Morgan expects his deployment to be both challenging and rewarding. While in Iraq, his primary mission is to deliver emergency communication messages to deployed units in the event of family emergencies. Another important aspect of the deployment includes creating programming to improve troop morale and resiliency.
He says the small things like providing a canteen where service members can stop by, rest, relax and feel at home can make a world of difference during a deployment.
“I've been serving the military community since I was 11 years old. I grew up around service members. These people are my mentors, friends, family and folks you can depend on. Being able to serve on deployment is a way of giving back and passing on the care and kindness they have shown me over the years,” he said.
SUPPORTING MILITARY FAMILIES ABROAD Mother and son, Laurel and Liam, spent Thanksgiving serving a holiday meal to soldiers at Camp Casey. This month, they’ll help out at the base holiday party, providing cheer to Korean and American service members.
Stone says this time of year can be hard for young soldiers on their first tour. “They leave their homes. They leave their families. They leave their pets. They leave the people they love and they're gone for the holidays, and that can be a lot to handle.”
She says it’s important that service members feel like this is their home away from home. “The Red Cross helps tremendously with that feeling, whether it’s a Thanksgiving meal, a holiday event or a small gesture, we show that we care,” she said.
From CPR courses to blood drives or handing out hand warmers during the cold Korean winter, Baek says that the Red Cross works year-round to support life on an overseas base. He says this work is gratifying.
“You feel good walking away, knowing that you did something for somebody.”
They both share they will miss Morgan Stone this holiday but know he’s doing great work. In the meantime, they are staying busy and training their dog, Daisy, to join in the family business. Laurel says Daisy is on the list to become a Red Cross Animal Visitation dog on base once COVID-19 protocols allow the program to resume.
“She’s ready to join the family business and start visiting soldiers,” she said. “We just need to get her a Red Cross scarf.”