American Red Cross services for veterans date back to World War I and remain consistent with the spirit of our congressional charter. Today, the Red Cross is proud to maintain our commitment to the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
In New Jersey, some of these services include social events held at veteran homes and hospitals by Red Cross Service the Armed Forces volunteers. These might be events such as barbeques, bingo game nights and holiday dances, where quality time spent with veterans is the primary objective.
One young man in New Jersey was so impressed with the veterans he met during social events while volunteering at the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home in Menlo Park, he became a United States Air Force ROTC Cadet.
Tilak Bhatnagar began volunteering with the Red Cross at the age of 14 as a member of his high school’s Red Cross Club. He served as president of the club and views his volunteer experience as a life-changing event.
“At age 14, I would never have expected to be where I am now,” said Tilak, who is a 20-years old Air Force cadet in his junior year as a Computer Science major at Rutgers University.
Tilak is very proud to be the first member of his family to join the military and he credits this decision to his time spent with veterans as a Red Cross volunteer. He has been deeply moved listening to the veterans over the years, hearing their stories and learning about their dedication to country.
Recently, Tilak attended one of the social events in his Air Force ROTC uniform and spoke to a large group of the veterans.
“Each and every one of you has helped positively shape and influence my life,” said Tilak. “I want to step up to the challenge to do right by you and honor my country and serve my country as you all have done.”
The veterans Tilak met with after his speech were visibly touched by this young man’s words and the respect was mutual between them.
Tilak continues to volunteer with the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces team and is currently planning activities for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day at the veterans home this December.
Learn more about how the American Red Cross helps veterans and military families through Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces.
Volunteer Julie Daigle contributed to this news story.