Memorial Day 2022: A message from Michael N. Parks, Regional Executive

By Mike Parks, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio, Rear Admiral, USCG (Retired)

Mike Parks, Rear Admiral, USCG (Retired)

Northern Ohio Red Cross Family: 

May is an important month for those men and women, and their families, who have chosen to serve our nation as members of the Armed Forces.   In 1999 Congress designated May as Military Appreciation Month to ensure the nation was given the chance to publicly show their appreciation for troops past and present.  Each year the President makes a proclamation reminding Americans the important role the U.S. Armed Forces have played in the history and development of the United States.  May was chosen because it has many individual days marked to note our military’s achievements including Loyalty Day (observed on May 1st and established in 1921 by Congress as “a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and the recognition of the heritage of American freedom”) and Victory in Europe (VE) Day (observed on May 8th commemorating the end of WWII in Europe in 1945).

We also observe Military Spouse Appreciation Day every May on the Friday before Mother’s Day (this year on May 6th).  President Reagan first recognized Military Spouse Appreciation Day in 1984 when he said, “Throughout the years, as the numbers of married men and women in uniform have grown and as their military missions have become more complex and dispersed, their spouses have made countless personal sacrifices to support the Armed Forces.  In many instances, they subordinated their personal and professional aspirations to the greater benefit of the service family.” 

Gold Star Families Memorial Monument – Cleveland, OH

On the third Saturday in May, we celebrate Armed Forces Day which was created in 1949.  Not to be confused with Veterans Day, which honors those who wore the cloth of our nation at war, or Memorial Day, which honors those who died wearing the cloth of our nation at war, Armed Forces Day honors both the men and women currently serving as well as those who have previously served and sacrificed to defend our nation’s freedom—which we all hopefully know has never been “free.”

That brings us to the last Monday in May—Memorial Day—which is next Monday, the 30th—when we honor members of the Armed Forces who have died in military service to our nation.  Much like our beloved American Red Cross, Memorial Day has roots dating back to the post-Civil War era when citizens would decorate the graves of fallen soldiers.  Memorial Day is one of the six recognized holidays we all celebrate in the Red Cross (an official day off)—appropriately so I might add.  That said, many Red Cross staff and volunteers will be participating in Memorial Day events around the country–in Northern Ohio, we’ve got folks supporting the ceremonies at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Seville and Woodlawn Cemetery in Toledo.  As well, Red Crossers around our Region and the country will be responding to those in need throughout the holiday weekend.  Thank you to those serving!

Today, when many people hear “Memorial Day” they think of the unofficial beginning of Summer, backyard barbeques, sales, and maybe even parades.  The word “memorial” means “intended to commemorate someone or something.”  I’m concerned that many are losing focus on what this special holiday is all about—are we truly commemorating those who paid the ultimate sacrifice?  I recently attended some events where our National Anthem was played and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited.  I must admit I was saddened to see so many people failing to show the proper respect by placing their hands over their hearts in tribute to our flag and our nation, and by extension, those who have sacrificed for both. 

I think we all, especially as members of the premier humanitarian organization in the world—the American Red Cross–with its roots in the blood and mud of the battlefields of the Civil War, are well-suited and have an obligation to set the right example—year round.  Please join me in committing to stand tall, remove our caps, and place our hands over our hearts when the National Anthem is played or we recite our Pledge of Allegiance.  We should also do the same when the American flag is “paraded” by us, both indoors or outside.  These small gestures will go a long way to acknowledge those who have fallen as well as those who remain to deal with their loss—we owe them that much—not just on Memorial Day but throughout the year! 

Thank you for all you do to support this wonderful organization—I’m proud to serve alongside each of you.  I hope you get to enjoy this special holiday with your family and friends while remembering those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.  God bless America!! 

Honoring our commitment during Military Appreciation Month

By Doug Bardwell, Red Cross volunteer

June 20, 2018. Washington, DC. Development SAF Stock Photography Project 2018. Photo by Roy Cox/American Red Cross

In 1776, our founders signed the Declaration of Independence, but without a military to back up our claims, the British Crown could have quickly regained control of our country. Fast forward to 2022, and one needs to look no further than Ukraine to see why our country needs a well- trained, well-equipped, always-prepared military.

Our military guarantees our entire way of life, so we need to do all we can to be there for our fighting men and women, along with their families. That was the original aim of the Red Cross founder, Clara Barton when she began caring for the wounded during the Civil War.

Service to the Armed Forces (SAF)

Since 1881, the American Red Cross has deployed alongside our military in every U.S. conflict since the Spanish-American War. The Red Cross also provides in-person support on more than 100 military installations and deployment sites worldwide, leveraging the services of 14,700 SAF volunteers around the globe.

“Members of the military, veterans, and their family members all make sacrifices,” said Jessica Tischler, Regional Program Director, Service to the Armed Forces and International Services.  “From emotional wellness workshops to emergency communications, our staff of volunteers works hard to help provide valuable service to the armed forces.

Red Cross services for our military and their families include:

Before deployment:

 “Get to know us before you need us” sessions inform the military family about the variety of Red Cross services available to them.

During deployment:

 Delivering verified emergency messages to active-duty personnel worldwide
 Facilitating financial assistance and resources through Military Aid Societies
 Military hospital services – providing comfort and help with therapy
 Coping strategies for families at home
 Mind-body stress reduction workshops

After deployment:

 Assistance at local VA hospitals and facilities
 Hero Care Resource Directory
 Information and referral services to community programs
 Military and Veteran Caregiver Network
 Reconnection workshops
 Assistance with veteran’s assistance appeals

Since 9/11, Red Cross and its volunteers have served more than 1 million military families, providing 24/7 emergency care and communications. Would you like to support military and veteran families in your community? Don’t take your freedoms for granted. Sign up to become a Red Cross volunteer or donate on our Support Military Families webpage.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

Mike’s Memorial Day Message

By Mike Parks, RADM, U. S. Coast Guard (Ret.)
Chief Executive Officer, American Red Cross, Northeast Ohio Region

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Northeast Ohio American Red Cross Family:  This weekend we will commemorate Memorial Day—the last official observance during Military Appreciation Month.  Six days ago we observed Armed Forces Day (May 19th) when we recognized all those who have, or are serving, in our Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard).   This day of commemoration began in 1949 when President Truman proclaimed it would be observed on the third Saturday in May.

We also recognize military spouses’ incredible impact to our lives and communities during this month on Military Spouse Appreciation Day which is observed on the Friday in May right before Mother’s Day ever since President Reagan proclaimed it so in 1984.

As we prepare to recognize Memorial Day, which is often associated with the unofficial start of summer (especially for boaters and anglers on the shores of Lake Erie), we should remember that Memorial Day honors those almost 1.2 million servicemen and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice serving our great nation.  The last Monday in May is set aside for our nation to Honor, Remember, and Never Forget the fallen and their sacrifice.

So as we put burgers on the BBQ in our backyards this weekend, take in some baseball, basketball, or boating, let us not forget why we have this long weekend.  We’re fortunate to live in a part of the country where small town Memorial Day parades are everywhere—please take one in—stand and place your hand over your heart when “Old Glory” passes by—thank a veteran for their service—simply put, remember and honor the sacrifice that has paid, and continues to pay, for our freedom!  As members of the American Red Cross—we’re privileged to serve in the world’s premier humanitarian organization that has a long history of serving our Armed Forces of this world’s greatest nation—an organization that has it’s very roots in the battlefield.  Thank you for what you do and for Honoring, Remembering, and Never Forgetting!  God bless the United States of America.

Yours in service,
Mike Parks.