By Debra R. Cox, American Red Cross volunteer
There is a special reverence in the word, service. For many people, the word has profound associations and makes them pause, a sudden heartfelt stillness in reflecting what it means to serve. There are parents who serve their children until their children can return the favor as the parents age. There are community members who set out to make their communities better through serving in varying capacities in local service organizations, including the American Red Cross. Finally, there are service members making personal sacrifices to serve in every branch of our armed forces, dedicated to protecting our country despite the implications of those sacrifices.
A commonality is the heart of the server: true, dedicated, self-sacrificing, willing to go “beyond the pale,” beyond the comfort of home for a cause greater than themselves. Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, initially set out to assist service members, especially during wartime. Despite Clara’s initial intent of providing ongoing support of active and retired military members and their families, many people now primarily identify the Red Cross with assistance during natural disasters. In addition, the United States Congress has also tasked the Red Cross with communications during emergencies related to serving military members and their families. Red Cross employees and volunteers deliver services to our military members across the country, as well as in over one hundred military installations around the world.
Having had the excellent fortune of serving with the Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces (SAF) at pre-deployment briefs, assisting both single military personnel as well as married personnel and their families, and in volunteering at San Diego VA and other SAF events, so many of us can personally attest to the meaningful interactions with both active and retired military personnel all along the chain of command. We can also attest to how appreciative these members and former service members are as Red Cross employees and volunteers diligently work to assist them in their times of need. These service members respond with true gratitude when we hand them something as simple as a snack and a smile, or something even more compelling: communication from home.
Those making the greatest sacrifices deserve the support of each and every one of us. Why do we volunteer with the Red Cross and Service to the Armed Forces? It’s all about the heart of the mission, and the mission matters; that’s why we serve.
The Red Cross Southern California Region is proud to support America’s military and veteran families, and serve those who have served our nation. Are you looking for ways to give back to our nation’s heroes and their families? You can honor those who have served by giving your time as a Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces volunteer. Sign up to volunteer with the Red Cross and start helping military families today. Visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more. To learn more about Red Cross programs and services available to military members, veterans and their families, visit redcross.org/military.