By Col. Deborah B. GraysMarch 26, 2010
The American Red Cross - we're confident it'll be on hand to lend support when a major disaster occurs, but did you know it's also there to help individual servicemembers and their families in times of need'
In the mid-1800s, Clara Barton, the ARC founder, risked her life on Civil War battlefields to tend to fallen Soldiers.
Since then, the ARC has continued helping servicemembers and their families through every military conflict, humanitarian effort and peacekeeping operation, and follows that commitment to the military by serving our members of the armed forces, even after their military tours have ended.
Each year the president of the United States proclaims March to be Red Cross Month. I think it's important for us to celebrate an organization that focuses on a wide range of services to our military community - specifically when our servicemembers need help the most.
Each year the ARC delivers more than 1.4 million emergency messages to military installations and family residences around the world.
It also reaches out to more than 1.2 million members of the National Guard and Reserves and their families living in nearly every community in America.
Messages range from the joyful news of a new birth to the heartbreaking news of a family illness or death.
Red Cross emergency messages provide military personnel and their commanders fast, reliable information to help them make decisions regarding emergency leave, deferment, compassionate reassignment and dependency discharge.
Red Cross personnel form a global network with chapters in civilian communities, military installations worldwide and forward-deployed locations in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Red Cross workers in hundreds of chapters and on military installations briefed 974,573 departing servicemembers and their families on available support services and explained how the Red Cross can assist them during their deployment.
Armed Forces Emergency Services help servicemembers and military families cope with separation by providing comfort and counseling.
Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services workers are neutral personnel to whom military persons or family members can go for confidential problem solving.
Through the Veteran Administration Volunteer Services, Red Cross volunteers provide a number of support services to patients in Veterans Administration hospitals.
The Red Cross also provides assistance and information to veterans about the benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Red Cross services also include financial assistance when an urgent personal or family crisis arises.
Financial assistance is provided when there is a demonstrated need for funds for such things as emergency travel, burial assistance or urgent health and welfare needs (such as food and shelter).
Red Cross workers work with Army Emergency Relief and other military aid societies to ensure legitimate needs are met.
The ARC provides independent verification of emergency situations and financial assistance and referrals for emergency travel and other family needs. In Atlanta, we're fortunate to have the Metropolitan Atlanta chapter of the ARC - an organization serving 19 counties with a population of nearly 5 million in metro Atlanta. The seventh largest chapter in the United States, in fiscal year 2007 to 2008, chapter members served 3,600 military families with emergency messages, financial assistance, counseling and referrals.
(Editor's note:Information for this column came from various ARC sources.)