By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross
February 15, 2019- Bill Conley was taking part in an amphibious landing exercise on the island of Vieques off Puerto Rico’s eastern coast when he received the bad news: his grandmother had passed away. Word came to his commanding officer, after his mother had contacted the American Red Cross.
He was sent home to attend the funeral. He was 19 years old.
“I remember very distinctly, I vowed to myself that if I could, someday I would pay them back for helping me get home,” Bill said. More than 55 years later, Bill continues to offer that pay back, by volunteering with the Red Cross at the headquarters of the Northeast Ohio Region.
“I believe in the mission. I won’t leave as long as my health holds out.”
Bill is the Regional Mass Care Manager and a logistics supervisor, and helps plan for and execute sheltering, feeding and other services the Red Cross provides. He has been a Red Cross volunteer since the year 2000.
Bill’s continuing work with the Red Cross and his experience in the U. S. Navy are now intersecting. He has been named the 2019 Outstanding Veteran of the Year by the Joint Veterans Council of Cuyahoga County.
He said the recognition is truly gratifying.
“I treasure this honor, because now I have this real connection with people in the armed forces, because of my experience in the Navy and what the Red Cross was able to do for me when I was there.”
When he joined the Navy at age 17, Bill said he didn’t have focus. “The military provided the structure and the discipline I needed.”
Now, all these years later, Bill said the Red Cross provides him with the opportunity he needs to help others.
“Providing immediate assistance after people go through a house fire or some other disaster, that is my most rewarding experience.”
If you have an interest in helping others, like Bill does, visit redcross.org/neo and click “Volunteer” to start an application.
If you’d like to cheer Bill on as he receives his Outstanding Veteran of the Year award, attend the 94th anniversary luncheon of the Joint Veterans Council of Cuyahoga County on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Visit here for tickets or call 216-373-7799.
Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer