The last evacuation flight out of Afghanistan for American and Afghan evacuees was conducted on August 31. The American Red Cross continues to see a need for help, and to meet that need, Red Crossers are stepping up around the globe to provide critical relief to evacuees after their rescue.
Support for evacuees is being provided through a variety of ways. One way is through distribution of care items. This distribution has particularly ramped up on U.S. military bases across multiple countries worldwide, where Afghan families are staying during their travels. Tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees and their families are temporarily staying on U.S. military bases and receiving medical care, necessities and assistance from the Red Cross as they transition to America. During this difficult transitory period, Red Cross teams are providing direct support to all evacuees in need.
But who are the people providing this care? A vast majority of these overseas volunteers raising their hands to help are veterans, service members and military spouses who are teaming up with the Red Cross to assist their Afghan evacuees. Together, both volunteers and evacuees are building a bridge of trust.
THE FACES OF RED CROSS RELIEF
Veterans: Before he donned his Red Cross vest, Chris Bowen was a veteran of the U.S. War in Afghanistan. Today, he leads a team of volunteers ready to serve Afghan evacuees and their families. Bowen makes sure that comfort kits and necessary items are in stock and ready to be delivered to Afghan guests on U.S. bases in Germany as soon as they arrive.
Fellow veteran Jami White Malcolm is also volunteering on this operation. While Malcolm’s husband is active duty at Ramstein Air Base, she works on base too, assisting evacuees as they arrive for their temporary stay. Malcolm particularly loves greeting each child with a smile and crayons, providing warmth to them from the start.
Military spouses: U.S. military spouses overseas are the backbone of this relief operation to Afghan evacuees, comprising the majority of the volunteer teams. They’re rolling up their sleeves and working around the clock to provide critical care items for entire Afghan families. And for most of them, this is their first time volunteering with the American Red Cross.
Ethan Breitling’s husband works for the Army in Germany, so when Breitling learned that the base would be accepting evacuees, he wasted no time. “I saw what was happening in Afghanistan and I knew I couldn’t sit at home while our allies were in need,” he said.
“I knew the Red Cross would be a first responder, so I immediately signed up. My parents raised me to give back more to my community than it has given to me and volunteering was the least I could do. What I’ve seen here has been some of the best of humanity. What’s more American than a group of strangers coming together to help another group of strangers in need? It comes down to doing what needs to be done and helping people in need.”
Breitling even had the opportunity to show Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Milley and his wife, Mrs. Milley, how teams build baby formula packs for evacuee moms.
Chloe Hesling is a military spouse who is proud to link up with the Red Cross during this time of need. Her first day of volunteering with the Red Cross was working the baby station for arriving evacuees. “I make sure all mothers in need get the correct sized diapers for their babies. I also hand out formula, wipes, snacks, blankets and changing mats,” she said.
“Today is my first day volunteering with the Red Cross and it’s been incredible, to actually be able to hand Afghan families all of the items they need right now and see their smiles and to give them something they need for their children. A lot of us military spouses don’t work and it gives me the chills to know I can use my days in this way to impact people who need help.
Service members: Eugene Notstad is an active-duty soldier who first donned the American Red Cross vest when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With the little free time he had, Notstad assisted at Red Cross COVID-19 testing sites to help patients. Today, he can be found under the big Red Cross tent greeting and helping Afghan families arriving for the first time on base.
“I like to put myself in other people’s shoes, Afghan evacuees are having to leave their home country with a backpack or maybe nothing at all. So to be able to provide them supplies, that’s important to me,” he said. Notstad encourages any other service member interested to seek out volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross. “The Red Cross is really well organized, which is important, and you can be involved in a cause that is bigger than yourself.”
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.
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