Marine Corporal Caide McLean was at work on a military base in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina when he received a call from the Red Cross letting him know that a gas explosion destroyed his childhood home in Embden, Maine more than 1,000 miles away.
His mom, Tamara McLean, who was home at the time, was severely burned in the accident.
“You see this stuff on TV and in movies but you never imagine it happening to you. When it happens, you’re mind-blown but the Red Cross is there to help,” he said.
A Call to the Hero Care Network
Upon hearing about the accident, Caide’s sister reached out to the Hero Care Network — a free, confidential service designed to aid service members and their families during times of crisis.
The network, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, allows families to initiate requests for Red Cross emergency assistance. These requests are confirmed and delivered to the service member and his or her unit. If the emergency requires the service member to go on leave, the Red Cross will verify the emergency to the service member’s commanding officer.
“The Red Cross made it really easy,” Caide said. “I was on the first flight back to Maine to be with my mom,” he said.
At the Hospital
When Tamara woke up in her hospital room, her son was there, ready to hold her hand and offer her a stuffed Teddy Bear.
“It was the best thing in my life — to wake up and have the people that mean the most to me, right by my side,” she said.
“You’ve lost everything. You’re scared. You’re hurt and you wake up and see the most important things in your world. The loss, the injury, the rest of it just doesn’t matter,” Tamara said. “There are no words to describe how good that feels,” she said.
Caide said the situation was tough, but he was thankful to be there for his mom. Working with a Red Cross caseworker, he was able to extend his military leave and remain at the hospital for two weeks.
Tamara would go on to stay for another four weeks recovering from her injuries.
Assistance Along the Way
Tamara says that in addition to bringing her son home, which she calls the “most important thing ever,” the Red Cross has been a tremendous help in navigating the challenges of restarting her life after her hospital discharge. This includes helping her secure critical items lost in the accident such as eye glasses, contacts and prescriptions and ensuring that she received mental health support.
Tamara says that she routinely heard from a caseworker who cared about her needs and listened to her challenges.
“I never had to ask for anything — the Red Cross asked me ‘what do you need?’”
Four months have now passed since the accident and Tamara is renting a new house, rebuilding her life and working through her medical challenges. She said she wears her burn scars with pride as they are a mark of how far she’s come in the process.
“A friend said to me ‘I thought the Red Cross just donates blood.’ A lot of people think that. Before this happened, I didn’t know all that they do to help,” Tamara said.
Caide is now back in North Carolina and preparing for his next military move later this year. His advice: if you have an emergency, do not hesitate to call the Red Cross.
“As someone in the military, it’s already hard to be away from your family. When you hear about an accident like this, it is even harder,” he said.
“You don’t know what the Red Cross offers until you see it. And the help you get from them is outstanding.”