U.S. Army Pfc. Quinlan Seowtewa, 21, says he’s so appreciative of the American Red Cross for reuniting him with his grandfather shortly before his recent passing. Growing up on a Native American reservation in Zuni, New Mexico, he says that his grandfather, Clifford Waikaniwa, a U.S. Army veteran, has always been his inspiration. When he learned that his grandfather had only days to live, he reached out to the Red Cross 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.
“It was heartbreaking and nerve-wracking news that he was so ill. Thanks to the help of the American Red Cross, I was able to get from my base in Europe to our home in the States and to be at my grandfather’s bedside in 36 hours.”
Seowtewa said the Red Cross provided emotional and mental support during this challenging time. He also credits his chain of command who shared information about how the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces assists service members and their families. At the time, Seowtewa was based in Ansbach, Germany, and was able to go home for two weeks.
“My grandfather and grandmother lived with my family pretty much since I was a kid and he was one of the main reasons that I enlisted in the Army,” Seowtewa said. “He was the first person I told when I made up my mind that I was enlisting. He gave me advice and pointers; he prepared me to be away from home and go through basic training.”
Growing up, Seowtewa bonded with his grandfather over his Army stories. In recent years, it was Seowtewa who was regaling his grandfather with stories. “He was very proud, he went to my army graduations, the last time I saw him be mobile was March of last year at my advance graduation,” he said.
“I come from a Native American background; we are a communal people. I got to say goodbye to my grandpa, I went to his burial because the Red Cross helped get me home. The Red Cross gave me that sense of closure. Without them, I would not have been able to get home,” Seowtewa said.
American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern recently visited LSA Eagle, a U.S. military mobile staff site in Rzeszow, Poland where Seowtewa is stationed. He wanted to thank the American Red Cross leadership personally.
“It was an honor to meet her, and it has been one of the highlights of my enlistment to show my gratitude to the organization for getting me home.”
Seowtewa said his grandparents always shared a Zuni saying, “hon ona ella’ba.” A Zuni saying that means “we all have a road.” “It means it’s easy to die, but hard to live so we can’t take anything for granted,” Seowtewa said.
“The Red Cross was able to care for me, to get me home, not because they had to, but because they’re compassionate.”