FORT BLISS, Texas - The American Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton in 1881 and, more than 129 years later, the organization remains the front-runner in providing emergency response relief, first aid training, and emergency messages to servicemembers anywhere in the world.

In a recent presidential proclamation, President Barack Obama said this about the American Red Cross: "Our Nation's leadership relies upon our citizens who are motivated to act by our common humanity. This month, let us come together to celebrate the American spirit of generosity, and the dedicated individuals and organizations who keep that spirit alive."

Here at Fort Bliss the American Red Cross is part of the Army Family Covenant -- a commitment to improved quality of life and readiness for Soldiers and their Families. The American Red Cross works directly with Family Readiness Groups and briefs Family members on the scholarship programs available for first aid certifications, lifeguard training and the babysitter certification required for babysitting on post.

"Locally we are all about economic opportunities for military Family members. Quality of life is such an important mission for us here at Fort Bliss and in the El Paso community," said Mark Matthys, Red Cross executive director for the El Paso area. "These skills might not only help them save a life at home, particularly when a Family member is deployed and they are responsible for young children in the home, but it might help them get a job or improve their pay scale."

The FRG leaders are also taught the exact information needed to send an emergency message to their Soldiers.

"The important thing to remember is that if there is an emergency at home, the Red Cross is the best way to get in touch with a servicemember," said Matthys.

As part of American Red Cross Month, the organization recently hosted a first aid certification event at the Warrior Transition Battalion here. Soldiers were given the opportunity to train on basic lifesaving skills such as CPR or clearing a blocked airway. Adult-and child-sized mannequins were provided for the hands-on portion of the training and all Soldiers were required to pass an exam prior to receiving their certification.

"It's very important to have this training, because you never know what situation you might find yourself -- whether it's on the battlefield or down the street," said Sgt. Alphonzo Holland, A Company, WTB. Holland helped to organize the training for the Soldiers in his unit.

Holland said that he had been involved in the Red Cross for years, but he was grateful for the chance to have a refresher on his first aid skills.

"We're very fortunate for those of us here at the Warrior Transition Battalion that the American Red Cross agreed to come out here and give us this training for free," said Holland.

The American Red Cross relies on the generosity of donations and the volunteer work of regular citizens. At the William Beaumont Army Medical Center, 200 Red Cross volunteers have logged more than 51,000 volunteer hours in the last year.

"[American Red Cross Month] is a great opportunity for us to remind people all over the country that we are here for each and every one of them," said Matthys. "We hope that Americans will return that favor by considering ways they can help be a part of the Red Cross."

To learn more about the American Red Cross visit

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16