One of the many ways the American Red Cross supports U.S. service members is through the Hero Care Center. In times of emergency, the Red Cross helps military families communicate with their loved ones through the Hero Care Network, available 24 hours a day online, by phone and through the mobile app.
“When a major life event such as a birth or death, or a critical emergency such as a family fire happens, this presents unique challenges for military families,” said Meredith Griswold, a senior associate at the Hero Care Network. She says that in the wake of an emergency, the network works to ensure military families can communicate with their loved ones who may be difficult to reach as they could be serving on a ship, in a remote location or on a mission with little connectivity.
“When a service member or their family members initiate an emergency message, our staff work with the family to verify an emergency and to figure out how we can be of assistance,” Griswold said. If an emergency requires leave for a service member, the Red Cross will verify the emergency and relay that message to the appropriate military commander. However, the eligibility for emergency leave is ultimately determined by each service member’s commander. If leave is approved, the Red Cross can then work with the service member’s military aid society to facilitate a trip home if eligible and appropriate.
“Emergency communication messages are the heart of what we do to help military families during difficult times,” Griswold said. “Online, through the app or our call center — our goal is to make getting help as easy as possible.”
How to Submit a Request
U.S. military service members and their families can initiate a request for Red Cross emergency assistance and track its progress from anywhere in the world. The three ways to reach the center are to submit a request online, download our free app or to call the Red Cross at 1-877-272-7337.
What Information is Needed
Before connecting with the American Red Cross, it is helpful to have the following information ready:
- Service member’s full legal name
- Service member’s rank/rating
- Branch of service (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard)
- Service member’s social security number or date of birth
- Military unit address
- Information about the deployed unit and home base unit (for deployed service members only)
It is also helpful to have as much information about the emergency as possible. Including the following:
- Name and contact for the immediate family member experiencing the emergency (could be spouse, parent, child/grandchild, or grandparent)
- Nature of the emergency
- Where the emergency took place
Who is Eligible to Receive Emergency Messages
Service members eligible to receive emergency communications regarding an immediate family member include the following:
- Active duty in the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Space Force or Coast Guard
- An activated member of the Guard and Reserve of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces
- A civilian employed by or under contract to the Department of Defense and stationed outside the Continental United States
- A cadet or midshipman at a service academy; ROTC cadet on orders for training
- A Merchant Marine aboard a U.S. Naval Ship
The American Red Cross does not authorize emergency leave for members of the United States military. The role of the Red Cross is to independently verify the emergency, enabling the service member’s commander to make an educated decision regarding emergency leave and then to provide transportation assistance and/or financial assistance if needed.
The American Red Cross facilitates emergency financial assistance on behalf of Military Aid Societies. These Aid Societies determine the financial assistance package that will be offered — a grant or a loan. The Red Cross is the mechanism to expedite access to these financial resources 24/7.
More information and additional resources can be found here.