FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- March is American Red Cross Month. It is a time each year that we set aside to recognize and show our appreciation for the work that this great organization does. If it were not for a presidential proclamation, the fact that March is Red Cross Month might escape you merely because of the humble way the Red Cross goes about its business.

The organization epitomizes and personifies the American spirit. Its unsung heroes illustrate exactly what it really means to extend help and care for victims in disasters. A month does not seem long enough for us to properly recognize an organization that has done so much relief work in its 130 years of existence.

The organization was founded in 1881 and has not missed a beat in responding to natural disasters and emergency circumstances related to the casualties of war. We certainly appreciate the work the Red Cross performs each day, and particularly in times of disasters. Focusing on disaster relief is just one of the important services provided by the Red Cross.

Fort Jackson is serviced by the Red Cross Chapter of Central South Carolina. Last year the Central South Carolina chapter provided $225,000 in disaster grants to victims to help pay for the food, lodging and immediate needs or victims following a residential fire or other disaster in Richland County. Some of the affected families have Fort Jackson connections.

Disaster relief is only one important component of the Red Cross mission. Red Cross workers and volunteers handle all types of support services. Red Cross volunteers deliver messages to Soldiers from family members. Last year, the Red Cross delivered more than 14,000 emergency messages to military members on Fort Jackson.

During an average month, Soldiers here on post receive approximately 200 Red Cross messages from family members. Some of those messages unfortunately deal with serious injuries, illnesses or death. The Red Cross volunteers who often must deliver the bad news have a very difficult and delicate mission. They have handled these situations admirably.

Red Cross volunteers also can be found at health clinics, the WTU and the Family Life and Resiliency Center. They help greet patients at Moncrief Army Community Hospital, as well as assist in the labs and pharmacy. They provide chaperones for examinations and transport patients between the clinics.
The Red Cross also directly supports the training mission here on Fort Jackson. It provides valuable information to Soldiers in Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training, as well as to their families, deploying Soldiers, and the service members at Task Force Marshall on how to prepare for disasters and how to contact service members in the event of a family emergency.

The Red Cross is also at the forefront of the blood drives and donations on post. The local impact is huge. Unfortunately, because of the severe winter that we have experienced this year, there is currently a critical blood shortage. I ask you that you consider making a donation. There will be opportunities March 18 at the Balfour Beatty Community Center and March 23 at MACH. Details about both drives will be printed in the Fort Jackson Leader.

I ask that we all make an effort sometime this month to show some appreciation in some form or another to this great American institution.

Consider a charitable donation, a donation of blood or a positive ICE comment. Or simply walk up to a worker or volunteer and tell him or her just how important he or she is to our mission.

Army Strong and Victory Starts Here!