By Brianna Kelly, American Red Cross
U.S. Army Veteran Raul Diaz knows the meaning of service and sacrifice. He joined the U.S. Army in November of 2010, serving as a Soldier Medic and providing lifesaving medical care to his brothers and sisters in arms. With a combat deployment to Afghanistan among his military experience, Diaz witnessed firsthand the importance of teamwork, camaraderie and a mission-first approach.
When Diaz ended his active duty-contract in 2014 and enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve, he received the opportunity to serve his country a second time with the American Red Cross. Now, Diaz serves with the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) team as a Regional Program Manager in the Red Cross Southern California Region. “I'm no stranger to the services that the American Red Cross provides for the military and their families,” says Diaz. “I've been a recipient of not just one, but two Emergency Communication [Red Cross] Messages, and when I saw an opportunity to be part of this great mission and services, I quickly jumped at it,” he says. Diaz and his team support service members, veterans and their families across Southern California, which has one of the highest military populations in the country.
The Red Cross provides in-person support for troops on all military installations in the U.S. and on more than 35 overseas installations including the Far East, Middle East and Europe. In addition to his work serving members of the military community in Southern California, Diaz has also deployed three times as a member of the Service to the Armed Forces team. In Kuwait, Romania and Poland, Diaz has served alongside fellow Red Crossers dedicated to providing important services to military members during their time away from home. From facilitating Emergency Communication Messages to providing volunteer opportunities to service members, to offering resiliency and self-care opportunities, SAF teams deployed across the world provide members of the armed forces with important services - and even fun activities like game nights, trivia nights, peer-led yoga, sports tournaments, creative writing and peer support socials.
Thanks to his incredible dedication to the SAF mission, Diaz received the Pacific Division SAF/IS Employee of the Year Award. “It is a huge honor and there is not a day that goes by that I'm not grateful for the nomination and the eventual selection,” he says. “[I] just want to emphasize that it is TEAM WORK that allows us to make a positive impact. I am referring to the volunteers and paid staff equally. It is not just my recognition; it is theirs as well. Thank you, team!”
For Diaz, as a former recipient of multiple Red Cross Emergency Communication Messages during his military career, it’s all about full-circle moments during his current career with the Red Cross. He feels that the 24/7 Emergency Communication Services provided by the Red Cross are one of the primary reasons that members of all branches of the military have a high appreciation for the work of the Red Cross. “I feel that sense of gratitude and I get to see it day in and day out by each of the service members I am currently serving during my SAF deployment,” says Diaz. “It's pretty amazing if you think about it. No other organization in the world, but the American Red Cross, is entrusted by the United States Congressional Charter to provide this service. To put things into perspective, though it is a service directed at our military and their families, it is a service that affects the entire nation. Wow!”
Diaz sees many parallels between his military service and his work as a Red Crosser. “The first that comes to mind and perhaps the biggest, at least to me, is our 'Mission First' approach, which to me means that both organizations understand that the task at hand, whatever it may be, is bigger than any one person. Each organization does a spectacular job at impressing upon each member of their respective organizations to take a step back, recognize and acknowledge the work that each of us contributes for the greater good,” says Diaz.
Diaz notes that in both the military and the Red Cross, individuals are stronger and better together, and that by working as a team, mission-driven people working together in each organization can go further and accomplish more than they could using only their own strength. “It's also important that I share that I am fully aware and understand that knowing this does not make it easier, but it does help to know and see that we are not in it alone. I share a camaraderie with my fellow Red Cross deployers, similar to the ones I share with my brothers and sisters in arms. Not many get the opportunity to experience this in life. I am fortunate to be able to experience it two times over,” says Diaz.
When asked what it feels like to know he is serving his country a second time with the Red Cross, Diaz shares a moving response. “That's easy, I get the best of both worlds,” he says. “As a Soldier Medic, I get to be an integral part of sustaining the fighting force through the medical care that I and my brothers and sisters in arms provide. As a Red Crosser, I get to be the support that members of the military and their families seek when they are faced with an emergency. To constantly be in a position in which I can be of service to our nation is a true privilege. I am one blessed man!”
For more information about Service to the Armed Forces, visit redcross.org/military. There are many volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces team. Visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more.