By Thomas J. Kunicki, American Red Cross volunteer
For more than 135 years, the American Red Cross has served those who serve our nation, helping members of the military, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to the challenges of military service.
From 24/7 Emergency Communications Services, to military clinic and hospital programs, to Mind-Body Workshops, to Veterans Services and so much more, Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces is there to ensure service members and their families receive compassionate care and support.
Now, the call has been sent to all Red Cross volunteers nationwide to come to the aid of service members, veterans and their families through a program called Compassion Calls. Locally, the objective of this program is to reach out to over 7,000 service member households in the American Red Cross Southern California Region. These are service members and their families who at one point in time have been contacted or approached by the Red Cross during the resolution of family crises or emergencies, or at the time that the service member initially processed into the armed forces. Now, Service to the Armed Forces is asking for volunteers to reach out again to these service members and offer them assistance or provide them with information regarding programs available to them through the Red Cross or Veterans Affairs.
"This is a good thing," said Steve Alt, Regional Service to the Armed Forces Director for the American Red Cross Southern California Region. Steve feels that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals - both the families of service members and Red Cross volunteers - are in quasi-isolation at home, leading to several stressors, including anxiety and potential mental health issues. "It's a good thing to reach out and let them know that we can help." Steve explains that this program can accomplish three important goals: it helps the clients who have used or received Red Cross resources in the past, and thereby strengthens the bond between the Red Cross and service members; it helps to disseminate critical information, such as the availability of a COVID-19 vaccination program for veterans through Veterans Affairs; and it helps Red Cross volunteers by providing another outlet to show their compassion for a unique and deserving segment of our community. Steve is himself a veteran, having served for thirty years in the Navy, attaining the rank of Command Master Chief, the highest enlisted rank in the Navy.
"We want to reach out and offer a warm hand," adds Justin Flores, Service to the Armed Forces Senior Regional Program Specialist, and principal organizer of the regional Compassion Calls initiative. Justin is a veteran and his wife is currently active duty as an E-7 (Chief Petty Officer of the Navy). Having completed six years of service in the Navy, and participating in two tours of combat duty, Justin began his work with Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces in Naples, Italy, where he volunteered for the International Red Cross while his wife was on active duty. Returning to the United States, he was inevitably drawn to continue his service to veterans by joining Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces in the Southern California Region. “It is important to let service members and veterans know the that the Red Cross is still here for them and their families," said Justin.
As a Red Cross volunteer, you can accept this challenge and deliver the Red Cross mission of providing care and comfort to service members, veterans and military families. All it takes is a warm heart to serve those who serve. To become a volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.