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!! 

A V-E Day remembrance: Charles Buccini saw each day as a gift

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

May 8, 2020- May 8 marks the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe during World War II, known as V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day). To help honor it, I spoke with veteran and American Red Cross volunteer Jim Buccini about his father, Charles Buccini, a WWII veteran and former Prisoner of War (POW).

Charles Buccini’s life and outlook are inspiring. Orphaned at a young age, Charles went between foster homes until, at 13, a family in Bellevue, Ohio, took him in. Charles lived and worked at the family’s farm until he was 21, when his foster brother was drafted. To help the family, Charles took his place.

Charles-Buccini-Photo-cropped-orig-lower-size_edited-1

Charles Buccini

Charles saw action in Europe with the United States Army 9th Armored Division, 73rd Artillery Battalion, until he and around 900 others were captured on December 18, 1944.

Charles spent the next six months as a POW. Food was scarce, and the POWs were often moved through long marches and packed box cars, staying in stalags and bombed-out buildings. Charles dropped from 165 pounds to 100 pounds, and nearly half of his group did not survive.

Charles rarely spoke of his time as a POW. In fact, Jim first heard many accounts in 1978, when he took his father to visit John Taibi, a friend and fellow POW. While the two often communicated, they hadn’t seen one another since being liberated. Jim relayed how emotional it was to witness their first meeting in over 30 years, hearing the stories, and realizing the extent of his father’s heroism.

Jim learned more through John Taibi’s diary, which describes hardships, relief of a Red Cross package and the day they were liberated. They woke, saw no Germans, heard American voices, and realized they were free.

Although his time as a POW caused lingering issues, Charles never complained and took pride in his service. Jim said when asked about difficulties, his father was spiritual and pragmatic. Charles explained that some things are left in God’s hands, it was all part of life and you deal with it.

Jim Buccini- tank at 145 family day

Jim Buccini

Charles saw each day after liberation as a bonus, a gift. Following the war, Charles worked as a pipefitter for 36 years, focused on his family and helped others. Charles passed away in 1991. On April 11, 2019, several family members and friends gathered at his gravesite for his 100th birthday.

Charles inspired many, especially his children, and helped instill confidence and caring. Two of them, Jim and his older brother, Chuck, are also Army veterans. Chuck’s service included a year in Vietnam. Jim was stationed near the Berlin Wall. Like many in his family, Jim helps others. After retiring in 2016, he volunteered with the Red Cross where his duties include Services to the Armed Forces.

People like Charles Buccini helped overcome one of humanity’s greatest challenges. For Jim and Chuck, his lessons help during another crucial time. As we now face a pandemic, Jim looks to his grandchildren, remembers his father and remains confident. Throughout this time, it may help us to follow Charles’ example and see each day as a gift.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer