Written and Photographed by: Vankita Thompson, Communications Volunteer
American Red Cross participated in a Yellow Ribbon event coordinated by North Carolina Army National Guard to assist service members and their families with deployment cycles. The coordinators of Yellow Ribbon teamed up with organizations to provide resources and information about communication, education opportunities, legal assistance, medical coverage, community programs, and financial assistance. Red Cross offered workshops, literature, and smiles to inform attendees of its services and resources.
Sergeant Kreig Heiney shared the Yellow Ribbon event with his wife, Kelsey, and their two adorable kids. He expressed that it helps to prepare the soldiers and their families for deployment. Having experienced multiple deployments, Heiney recognizes the value of available resources for both himself and his family. The Red Cross Communicating Clearly workshop emphasized how communication impacts deployment, and then demonstrated methods of effective communication.
In 2015, Sergeant Heiney was deployed when Kelsey was experiencing complications while in labor with their first child. Thankfully, her doctor was familiar with American Red Cross Emergency Communications. Through this service, Heiney was able to be there with his wife to see the birth of his son because caring, dedicated Red Cross volunteers were able to get the word to him. To his surprise, hospital staff videoed him as he rushed to the delivery room. Talk about a new dad debut!
Sergeant Shawn Meadows, who was deployed in 2008 and has served our country for 22 years, referred to the Yellow Ribbon event as a one-stop shop offering everything in one place. He stated that it gives a peace of mind and keeps service members from leaving their families in the dark during deployment. Meadows participated in the Red Cross Communications workshop. It not only helped with effective communication between service members and their families, but it also provided information on how to use American Red Cross Emergency Communications.
Sergeant Meadows shared that he recently used American Red Cross Emergency Communications due to his mother having health issues. He was impressed with how quickly the entire process went, stating that he received the message about his mother at 8:00 am and was headed her way by 1:00 pm. Meadows was happy and very thankful to have the opportunity to assist his family with his mother’s care. Sergeant Meadows is truly a man of service as he expressed, “I wouldn’t trade military experience for anything in the world. It’s provided great memories and great friends.”
MEET OUR VOLUNTEERS
Charlie Brown is a facilitator and trainer for Service to the Armed Forces (SAF). She traveled from the D.C. area to spend 7 days in Raleigh and 4 days in Charlotte to assist with these workshops for pre-deployment service members and their families. The Yellow Ribbon event allowed American Red Cross to address questions and concerns about communication during deployment along with strengthening communication skills. Charlie showed that she knows her stuff by sharing tips such as tone of voice, how to make best use of calls, knowing what to talk about, finding common ground, connecting kids, and using alternative means of communication such as writing letters, sending care packages, and sharing books to discuss. “It’s the small talk… the little things… the family things that keep us connected.”
Charlie explained that the American Red Cross is chartered by Congress to be the go-to between doctors, families, and command. "They are the ones who can make it happen”. The Red Cross Hero Care Network is where families go for emergency communications. Charlie, like the many Red Cross volunteers around the world, aims to build bonds and resiliency. She warmly stated, “To make a difference is why I do what I do.”
John Feerick, of Concord, NC, volunteered as a facilitator assistant at the Yellow Ribbon event. He said his duties for this particular event were clerical in nature. Yet, it was vital as he handled brochures and participant feedback forms, making him a face of American Red Cross. He shared that working with American Red Cross staff had been very enriching to him. John has been part of the team for a year and when asked what made him want to join American Red Cross, he simply stated, “Red Cross has a sterling reputation. I have such a great respect for people in the military today. They are sacrificing not only themselves but their families too.”
John also wanted to meet veterans and talk with them. So he has. He spends time with them at a VA Medical Center and experiences their interactions firsthand. He said that he has met a lot of good friends, heard many fun stories, and has even learned how to make coffee. He is impressed by the genuine affection that veterans have for one another.