By David VergunMay 6, 2013
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 6, 2013) -- "With some 60,000 Soldiers in Afghanistan and another 90,000 in 150 countries, I guarantee you that not far from each of them is a Red Cross volunteer," said Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno.
Odierno was speaking at the Red Cross "A Salute to Service" gala here, May 4, where he and his wife Linda were honored with Lifetime of Service Awards.
"I should be giving Red Cross an award, not receiving one," he said, "for things they've done for us, the military members, for so long."
When Odierno's son, Capt. Anthony Odierno, was wounded in Iraq, some of the first people he saw in the hospital were Red Cross volunteers "ready to assist," he said. The general added that for the volunteers, it might not have been a big deal, but for his son and others whom they have served, "it really is."
WARRIOR ON A MISSION
The Red Cross also honored retired Army Capt. Dawn Halfaker with a Woman Warrior Award.
"Dawn and my son were both at the hospital (in Iraq) at the same time back in 2004," Odierno said. "They encouraged each other to go forward and to reach out and help others. On a daily basis she's seeing how she can help make other people's lives better."
Halfaker and her platoon of military police were ambushed near Baghdad while on a morning patrol.
"I recall hearing a massive explosion and seeing a fireball right in front of me -- then things went black," she related. "I came out of the coma after about two weeks, and found I'd lost my right arm. One of the first thoughts I had was that my life and career were over."
After reflecting on what happened, she said she came to realize that she wanted to help other wounded warriors regain their sense of purpose. That's why she founded her own company, Halfaker & Associates.
About half of the company's team members are prior military, she said, and they help other military members transition to civilian careers.
Also honored was Col. Gregory D. Gadson, garrison commander of Fort Belvoir, Va. The Red Cross presented him with an Exceptional Service Award. Gadson lost both of his legs in 2007 in Iraq following an improvised explosive device detonation.
"Greg is commander of one of our garrisons," Odierno said. "That's one of the most complex jobs you can have. He's not a commander because he's a wounded warrior. He's a commander because of his leadership, his will, his initiative and his understanding of what it takes to take care of our Soldiers and families. That's why he's doing a great job."
Gadson's "mental toughness" and can-do attitude helped to pull him through the ordeal, Odierno said. "He carried that attitude on in everything he's done in the Army. He's an inspiration to us and to others around the world."
Gadson will soon be traveling with a group of other wounded warriors to Boston to meet with wounded individuals who survived the recent bombing attacks there, Odierno said.
For his part, Gadson said he was honored to receive the award, but that he was just doing what was expected of him. He added that the Red Cross does a lot of behind-the-scenes work.
"You don't give a second thought that they're there," he said.
Odierno concluded said the wounded warriors being honored are great, not because of their injuries, but because of what they were able to do in spite of their injuries.
"What we learn from them is it doesn't matter whether you're missing a leg, two legs or an arm," Odierno said. "It's about having purpose, a will. You decided that no matter what happens to you, you'll continue to make a difference, not only in your life, but someone else's life. And that's what they've both done."
"Linda Odierno is a strong advocate for Soldier and family programs," said CNN's Candy Crowley, the emcee at the event. "Over the past four years, she provided pet therapy with her yellow Labrador/Golden Retriever cross-breed, visiting wounded warriors and their families."
That is just one of many things she has done.
Also honored was the Army Fisher House Program at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. Fisher House received an Exceptional Partnership Award.
"Fisher House Foundation donates 'comfort homes,' built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers," said Crowley. "These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful times -- during their hospitalization."
Also honored was the National Guard, which received an Exceptional Response Award.
"National Guard Soldiers work alongside Red Cross volunteers and other responders, like the Federal Emergency Management Agency," Crowley said. "Last year, the Guard responded to more than 100 natural disasters, including Hurricane Sandy."
RED CROSS SERVICES
Local chapters may be able to help family members with information on such issues as coping with separation, dealing with financial problems or other issues that might arise while the service member is deployed, said Denise Cuenin, a Red Cross worker at Fort Jackson, S.C., during an earlier interview.
This is especially helpful for Reserve and National Guard families or active duty families not living near a military base, he said. These services are extended via a network of Red Cross staff and volunteers in chapters in the United States and on military installations worldwide.
The Red Cross also manages the largest blood donor service in the U.S. and provides educational and certification programs in CPR, first aid and water safety.
The most common service for the military remains emergency notification messages. Many of these Red Cross-validated messages result in the granting of emergency leave, he added.
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