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!! 

Caring for our troops never gets old…even after 140 years

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

While not as high profile as conducting blood drives and setting up disaster shelters, the American Red Cross’ origin was taking care of military personnel.  Clara Barton, who founded the Red Cross, made a name for herself by her heroic volunteer efforts comforting and providing assistance to fallen soldiers during the Civil War.

Even now, as we celebrate Red Cross Month, Service to the Armed Forces is still a key pillar of the five service branches of the Red Cross. Not only do we care for the troops, but the Red Cross provides an indispensable range of services for the families of the servicepeople while deployed…and afterwards.

Worldwide Effort

The Red Cross provides 24/7/365 emergency communication services for military personnel and their families, no matter where on the globe they might be located. In addition:

The Commitment Never Ends

Since 9/11, the Red Cross has cared for more than one million military families. Today, we continue to provide support for those families before, during and after deployment. 

Besides emergency communications while deployed, military members and their families benefit from information referrals, some financial assistance, and other non-emergency resources.

“The Red Cross helps members of the military, veterans and their families in a wide variety of ways,” said Jessica Tischler, Regional Service to the Armed Forces Program Director.  “And we are continuing to provide services, thanks to our volunteer caseworkers, despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic.”

During Red Cross Month, download the free Hero Care App (for both iOS and Android) to learn more about the services available, consider helping us with this work as a volunteer, or make a contribution to the Red Cross to help with this continuing need.  

Military mom offers thanks

November 22, 2019- Editor’s note: Jessica Tischler, Regional Service to the Armed Forces Program Manager, recently receive this heartfelt message from the grateful mother of a serviceman.

This email is long overdue. My name is Barbara Freeman and I donate financially to the Red Cross and give blood every three months. There is a very special reason why I will always support your organization.

My father passed away 10 years ago. During that time my son was enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Therefore, in order to get him home when my father was in critical condition, I had to go through the Red Cross.

Barbara Freeman

Jason Mitchell and his grandfather, Daniel Bryant.  Photo provided by Jason’s mother, Barbara Freeman.  With permission.

My father helped raise my son. He was always my son’s idol and it was the reason my son joined the Navy because his grandfather served in the US Navy during WW2. When I had to make the call to the Red Cross I was not in a good place. As I was speaking with one of your representatives, she asked me questions that I was unable to answer. In the state I was in, I could barely remember my child’s name let alone know if he was in A School or C School. She was so kind and told me to go be with my father at the hospital and she would take care of everything. When I got to the hospital, I remember telling my mother that I was sure I would need to call back the Red Cross because I was sure I did not have enough information for them to be able to get my son home, but I was wrong.

Within 20 minutes of that call my son was on his way home. Because of this, he was able to see the most important man in his life before he passed away. Because of this, I will always support the Red Cross. I tell everyone this story, especially to the employees of the Red Cross that take my blood, but I realized I never told you directly. I hope you know what a difference you make in people’s lives. I apologize that it took me 10 years to personally thank all of you for all you do. I hope it is true that it is better late than never.

Thank you,

Barbara Freeman

When the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio asked for permission to reprint Ms. Freeman’s message here, this was her response:

“I have no problem with you sharing my story. I would love for as many people as possible to know what an amazing organization you are. I worked in nonprofit for many years and would tell that story to our new staff to explain what a difference they make in people’s lives. I can’t even put into words what an impact the Red Cross has made in my life but most importantly the lives of my son and his grandfather. Bless you for all you do.”

Military Dad Honors Military Children

April is Month of the Military Child

By Jorge Martinez, Chief Operating Officer, American Red Cross, Northeast Ohio Region
Commander, United States Coast Guard (Retired)

Jorge

Jorge Martinez

Military members past and present are routinely honored throughout any given year in many ways, and rightfully so.  As a retired military officer, I can say that I feel more than adequately recognized for my service to our wonderful country.  Truth be told and as any member will tell you – it’s not why we serve.  And while not necessary it is appreciated.  However, it is not the individual that serves, but rather the family.  And most members will tell you that the service member has the easy job.

That was certainly true for me.

I would deploy for months on end carrying out the king’s work with people I loved and trusted while my family stayed back and did their valiant best to go on with life as normal — though always worrying but not showing it.  They too were serving honorably but doing so silently in the shadows.

I would get painful glimpses from time to time.

I remember one particular instance nearly 10 years ago when I was putting my then 6-year old son, Ben, on the school bus before heading out to sea myself for nearly 5 months.  He was the last of my two sons to head out that morning; my infant daughter was still asleep in her crib.

Ben was and is a very stoic kid.  Though we were very close, he never showed his emotion and I know he never wanted to disappoint me.  I hugged him when I put him on the bus and told him I loved him.  He sat in a window seat… and gave me a look that I will never forget.  It was a “you’re leaving me again, Dad” type of look and it cut right through me.  As soon as the bus pulled away, I hugged my wife and we both started to cry.  This was not an isolated incident.

Military families and their selfless service to our nation are all too often overlooked, especially the children’s service and sacrifice.  They go about their days like any other kid would and typically without complaint about a parent being gone for long periods of time.  They keep it together most of the time.  They didn’t ask for this, but deal with it they must and do.  It’s hard and it’s thankless… but it’s necessary.

Military children are my heroes!  They have a wonderful purpose and possess such quiet strength.  After retirement, I’ve been able to reflect on them and their journey of service and it’s an inspiring one to me.  Throughout my career, I have been blessed to be part of many great teams that have accomplished much.  But my greatest accomplishment (really my wife’s) is seeing my children grow up and be better than I ever could have been at their stage of life.

Our country’s military children have been inspiring and helping our military members for as long as we’ve been a country.  Our nation owes them a debt of gratitude.  If you agree, next time you see a military family thank them all… especially the children.  They’ve earned it.

The American Red Cross supports our nation’s military members, veterans, and their families through Service to the Armed Forces.  Learn more here.

Volunteering with our Armed Forces and International Services

When many people think of the Red Cross, they may conjure up images of people in red vests at the scene of a national disaster, or the roadside sign announcing a blood drive. While both of these functions are true of the Red Cross, we also support America’s Military FamiliesIMG_4080

By providing unwavering commitment to members of the U.S. military, its veterans and their families the Red Cross Service to Armed Forces (SAF) continues to grow and develop more than a century after Clara Barton first recruited nurses to support the U.S. Army. Today, with the help of our dedicated volunteers, the Red Cross is meeting the needs of a changing military while expanding services to veterans.

Here in Northeast Ohio our dedicated cadre of volunteers serves as caseworkers to service members and their families in times of emergency, outreach educators, and in many more functions.

When asked why they want to volunteer with SAF, most of them, like Jamie Bricker, expressed a love for helping service personnel and their families.  Katlin Vorndran stated that she was impressed with how grateful clients are for the SAF program and with how the Red Cross is there to assist the families of service members with their most urgent needs.

Bruce Foster shared the story of an experience that happened shortly after the death of his own father. He was contacting SAF clients to complete our satisfaction survey and was caught off guard by a client’s compassion towards him.  Understanding the turmoil that was going on in his own life, the client pressed him to be truthful about his well-being and then proceeded to praise him for extending such compassion to those he didn’t know during a difficult personal time.

Many of our SAF volunteers serve dual roles between Services to the Armed Forces and our International Services. For Nicole Rolf, the overlap in working cases for both International clients and Armed Forces clients gives her the opportunity to gain a better understanding of new cultures and interacting with people from all walks of life.

Amylynn Smith appreciates how unique our internationally recognized organization is, and that the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (to which the American Red Cross belongs) are respected throughout the world -even in areas of conflict.

When Alassane Fall moved to Cleveland from Senegal, he had a great respect for the missions of International Red Cross movement and sought out volunteer positions with the local Red Cross. He has a boundless desire to make a difference in this world, and wants to help those in need in his community.

If you are interested in learning more about the volunteer opportunities with our Services to Armed Forces or International Services, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328.