CEO’s Veterans Day Message

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Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery, Veterans Day Program 2015

By Mike Parks, CEO, American Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region, Rear Admiral, U. S. Coast Guard (Ret.)

American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio Family Members:   Yes…it’s Veterans Day and we have Red Cross members representing us in parades and festivities around the country in honor of those who have served our grateful nation.  For those of you who are veterans—thank you for your faithful service.  For those of you who have family members who are or were veterans, thank you for supporting them.  As every person who has worn the uniform of this country will attest—support from family and friends was crucial to their success.    And thank you to all the Red Crossers who support our Servicemen and Servicewomen every day of the year.

Here is a blog post that I thought you might find interesting from the Senior Vice President for the American Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces (SAF), Koby Langley, it really gets to the heart of why we do what we do.

As we pause from our Red Cross duties to reflect on Veterans Day, I thought it fitting to share some historical thoughts with you about one of the American Red Cross’ most distinguished leaders who was also arguably one of the greatest military leaders in our nation’s history, General George C. Marshall:

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2nd Annual City of Cleveland Veterans Day Parade

“By the summer of 1949, President Truman was mulling over means of bringing Marshall back into public service as head of the American Red Cross. There were signs that Basil O’Connor, head of the American Red Cross since 1944, might soon retire. Why not, thought the President, give Marshall that job? It would associate him again with public affairs in a way that carried fewer burdens than had his previous appointments.

Basil O’Connor had been named by President Roosevelt to succeed Norman Davis as Chairman of the Red Cross when Davis died in 1944. O’Connor was very hardworking but had managed to offend and alienate some of the older Red Cross leaders. Many of the disagreements had been smothered during the war, when the Red Cross had given outstanding service to servicemen, refugees, prisoners of war, and others desolated throughout the world.

Part of the trouble came from the apparent domination of the organization in the late thirties by wealthy and socially prominent Eastern-establishment figures on the Red Cross board of governors. Active heads of chapters in other cities and regions complained that they had no voice in operations. Volunteer workers, a highly important part of the Red Cross’s activities, charged that they were not used or involved in decisions. These charges and complaints boiled down to the bitter feeling that a very few people ran the organization.

In 1946, the Red Cross made a decision to create a special committee headed by E. Roland Harriman, Averell Harriman’s brother, a partner in Brown Brothers, Harriman, and manager of the North Atlantic region of the Red Cross during the war. He and his committee members undertook to meet some of the chief complaints of others in the organization, and their proposed changes were approved by Congress and President Truman in the spring of 1947. The President of the United States was to appoint the President, and the board of governors was enlarged and rearranged to give far more representation to the chapters. Chairman O’Connor now became President.

Despite O’Connor’s efforts to stop controversy, sharp criticism persisted. By 1948, it was evident that the organization needed a leader of great stature who had not been associated with the infighting, and who could respond to the claims of all factions without prejudice. O’Connor made it plain that he was ready to step down.

Truman naturally thought of Marshall. His appeals for the European Recovery Program were of the exact kind needed by the American Red Cross. During the war he had sought public support for Red Cross drives, and his war’s-end reports praised the organization’s service to the men of the armed forces and their families. His 1948 speeches for ERP showed his effectiveness in convincing the same types of people that the Red Cross needed. Few were aware of another factor that made him so desirable as O’Connor’s successor. As Pershing’s aide in France after World War I and later in the United States, he came into contact with many Eastern- establishment figures, whose influence was still needed by the Red Cross. He was perhaps the one person who could bridge the gap between the factions…”27280817982_d96f924a01_z

“Marshall set out to eliminate friction, to fire the workers with enthusiasm, to smooth out dissension. In the early months of the year he spent as head of the Red Cross, he was on the road constantly. In the last months, the coming- of the Korean War gave added emphasis to the Blood Bank program, and to morale-building services concerned with the troops and their families, thus gaining added support for overall programs.

The number of personal trips he made surprised even him. Near the end of 1949, he wrote Queen Frederika of Greece, who had asked about his new job, that although he was at Pinehurst for the winter, he would be traveling constantly on Red Cross business from January 15 until March 7, some 20,000 miles. Since taking over in October, he had covered 9,000 miles. In fact, he said, he would be increasingly busy until he took a few days off for rest in August.”    From George C. Marshall: Statesman 1945-1959 by Forrest C. Pogue

Caring Cubs Create Cards to Help Heroes Celebrate Holidays

Children Use Artistic Talent to Say “Thank You” to Service Members, Veterans 

The annual American Red Cross Holidays for Heroes Campaign is in full swing, and  Caring Cubs is making its annual contribution. The Northeast Ohio-based organization holds monthly events for children ages 2 and up, designed to teach various lessons of social responsibility.  On Saturday, November 5th, dozens of children and their parents gathered in the Main Galleria at Cuyahoga Community College Western Campus in Parma to create cards to send to members of the military.

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Bryn and Elle with mom Anne

“It’s great to partner with organizations like Caring Cubs,” said Jessica Tischler, Regional Director of Service to the Armed Forces.  “The cards they created will no doubt bring smiles to many faces this holiday season.”

Unlike previous campaigns, this year we hope to solicit cards that can be sent to service members and their families at every holiday during the year.  We are asking for personal, heartfelt messages in every card, even if it means collecting fewer cards.  See our earlier post, which includes a video highlighting the need for meaningful messages, as well as a list of items we are collecting for patients at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.

Log onto our Flickr page to see more photos of the Caring Cubs’ efforts to brighten the holidays for our heroes.

Hero Care App Launched

For Active Military Members, Veterans and Their Families

The American Red Cross has unveiled the new Hero Care mobile application. This free app is designed to help members of the military, veterans and their families identify and access both emergency and non-emergency Red Cross services from anywhere in the world.

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“When an emergency happens, accurate information, easy access to services and time are of the essence, especially for military families” said Jessica Tischler, Director of Service to the Armed Forces in the Northeast Ohio Region. “That’s why the Red Cross has designed the new Hero Care App – whether you’re the parent of a child joining the military, a military member, a military spouse or  veteran, the Hero Care App will connect you vital services and guide you to valuable resources that will help alleviate stress during emergencies and provide important information right at your fingertips.”

Some the important features of the app include:

  • Request Red Cross emergency services including an emergency message or assistance with emergency travel or emergency financial aid.
  • Securely and easily access information about their service member in the case of an emergency, including updated information as they move or change duty assignments.
  • Access non-emergency Red Cross behavioral health assistance including financial assistance and free local workshops for military kids and spouses.
  • Find local resources and information provided by trusted community partners like Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Blue Star Families, Military Child Education Coalition, United Way, Goodwill, Easter Seals, and others.
  • Locate information on key government resources such as MilitaryOneSource, VA Benefits and Services, Department of Labor VETS, the VA Caregiver Support Program, and SAMSHA Community Health Support Services.

Content in the Hero Care App is available in both English and Spanish, and the call center is staffed 24/7 with multi-lingual translation services.

The Hero Care App is available to download for free in app stores, by texting ‘GETHEROCARE’ to 90999 or by clicking this link from a mobile device:  http://3cu.be/sharehc .

Volunteers help the Red Cross provide Service to the Armed Forces.  If you are interested in giving back to our nation’s heroes by volunteering with Red Cross SAF, click here, or call 216-431-3328.

NEO Red Cross CEO Honors WWII Veteran with Challenge Coin

She was one of 11,000 known as a SPAR

Semper Paratus.  Latin for “Always Ready,” the motto of the United States Coast Guard.  During World War II, 11,000 women joined the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve and were called “SPARs,” an acronym of the motto combining the Latin and English initials.

One of the women of the U. S. Coast Guard Women’s Reserve was Virginia Conklin, the mother of American Red Cross Lake to River Chapter Executive Director Karen Conklin.

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World War II Veteran Virginia Conklin and daughter Karen Conklin, Executive Director of the American Red Cross Lake to River Chapter

Mike Parks, the CEO of the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region and a retired U. S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral, recently presented Mrs. Conklin with a Challenge Coin, a military tradition meant to prove membership if challenged, or in recognition of special achievement.

“It is an honor and a privilege to meet a SPAR,” Mike said, adding, “What a remarkable lady, who at 92 years young is still an inspiration to all of us.”

During World War II, the U. S. war effort required more men at sea. Women were not yet integrated into the military, but to allow Coast Guardsmen to deploy, the Women’s Reserve was created to fill jobs the men had been doing stateside.

One of those jobs was resupplying “Liberty Ships,” 2,700 cargo vessels that were mass produced during the war.  (One Liberty Ship was named after Red Cross founder Clara Barton.)

“About every two weeks we would go out on a PT boat with supplies,” Virginia remembered.  “We’d have to walk the gang plank to deliver them.  And on the way back, we trolled for shrimp, which would be the night’s supper.”

She was stationed in Savannah, Georgia after training in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Virginia says the prospect of warm weather was one of the factors that motivated her to join the Coast Guard, after growing up in Chester, West Virginia.

Another motivating factor was her job.  She hated it.  She wanted to go to college, but without the money to pay for it, she went to work straight out of high school.  The Coast Guard was offering to pay for college following the service of those who enlisted, so Virginia Conklin signed up in 1944, despite her father’s misgivings.

“He hated it,” Virginia said. “He was a World War I vet, and he thought all we were going to do was smoke and drink.”   But dad finally relented, and signed the papers to allow his 20 year-old daughter to enlist.

After the war, things did not exactly go as planned.  Virginia Conklin married and had three children.  She was 48 years old when she finally got her bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University. She earned a master’s degree at West Virginia University, and taught high school English for 18 years before retiring.

The SPARs lasted just 4 years. The Coast Guard disbanded the Women’s Reserve in 1946. Virginia Conklin served as a SPAR from 1944 to 1946. “The best two years of my life.”

Message from Mike Parks, Rear Admiral, U. S. Coast Guard (Ret.)

CEO, American Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region 
Offers Veterans Day Reflection

Fellow Red Crossers:

As we all know, the origins of the American Red Cross were found on the battlefields of our nation.  Our organization has a proud history of serving those who faithfully served our country, both in times of peace and in times of war.  That tradition lives on today.

On this day, we must remember that on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, World War I ended.  Though the Armistice was signed at 5 a.m., fighting continued till 11 a.m., killing nearly 11,000 more men.  In 1921, President Warren Harding had the remains of an unknown soldier killed in France buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery.  Inscribed on the Tomb are the words:  “Here lies in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”  On November 11, 1921, President Harding stated:  “On the threshold of eternity, many a soldier, I can well believe, wondered how his ebbing blood would color the stream of human life, flowing on after his sacrifice…I can sense the prayers of our people…Let me join in that prayer. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come…”

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Photo Credit: Gwen Bochmann/American Red Cross Volunteer

Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all U.S. Veterans.  In 1958, President Eisenhower placed soldiers in the tomb from WWII and the Korean War. The soldier from Vietnam, buried by President Reagan in 1984, was identified by DNA tests as pilot Michael Blassie and was reburied in 1998 at Jefferson Memorial Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri.

Photo Credit: Cal Pusateri/American Red Cross Volunteer, U. S. Marine Corps (Ret.)

To all those who have worn the uniform of our country—thank you for your selfless service to a grateful nation!  Best regards…Mike