From the American Red Cross:
Since the start of the pandemic, U.S. service members have continued to work around the clock. Their responsibility to travel, train and protect the country has not ceased, and military spouses have continued to move, hunt for jobs and take care of families all while safeguarding their loved ones from the virus.
Serving as a Behavioral Health Officer with the 328th Combat and Operational Stress Control Unit, Army Major Joel Smith knows firsthand the sacrifice made by military members and their families – as well as the power of volunteerism. Having been on the receiving end of Red Cross assistance during a family emergency while on deployment, Smith now serves on the Service to the Armed Forces advisory committee to give back to his fellow soldiers and their families.
In that time, Smith’s efforts locally have made a global impact, volunteering for everything from running bingo nights for veterans to personally delivering much-needed resources to soldiers on the front lines.
“It’s very rewarding that you can contribute at a local level and have a global impact,” said Smith. “The level of sacrifice when you’re in the military. It’s so noble in our own communities to take care of our veterans or family members who are serving, because they are the ones who really sacrifice.”
This Military Appreciation Month, the American Red Cross is inviting people around the country to turn ‘Thank you for your service’ into action. For those with a military background or just a heart for military and veteran communities, opportunities to volunteer and support are available in the Southern Tier.
Within the Southern Tier Chapter, the Red Cross through Service to the Armed Forces provided assistance to more than 500 military members and their families within the past year.
“Military families experience emergencies, just like other families,” said Alan H. Turner II, Regional CEO, American Red Cross of Western New York, “except oftentimes they go through a crisis separated from a family member who is deployed. Handling an emergency without your support system can be scary, but Red Cross volunteers make a huge difference in the lives of our military families through emergency relief.”
ANSWER EMERGENCY CALLS WITH THE HERO CARE NETWORK. The Red Cross Hero Care Network is a free 24/7 support system for military and veteran families when they are facing crisis. The Red Cross is the only organization to provide this emergency messaging service to separated active-duty military families.
· Since the start of the pandemic, the Red Cross has seen an uptick in emergency calls to their Hero Care Network.
· Volunteers help serve members each day by answering calls, delivering messages and work on cases of those who have experienced the death of a loved one, a medical emergency or have a financial crisis.
· Here in the Southern Tier, the Red Cross has provided emergency services to more than 23 military families in the past year.
VOLUNTEER AT A MILITARY OR VETERAN HOSPITAL. The Red Cross has medical and non-medical volunteers that help provide care, comfort and therapy at military in the U.S. and all around the world.
· Medical Volunteers: Medical volunteers, such as certified doctors and nurses, help support hospital staff in a variety of ways, allowing medical staff more time to focus on priority patients. Medical volunteers can help by seeing patients in-person or through telehealth, nurse charting, answering calls and more.
· Non-medical Volunteers: Non-medical volunteers help with a variety of programs including visiting patients, manning coffee, snack and book carts; providing art and garden therapy classes; hosting animal visitation programs; and distributing care and comfort items to patients and medical staff.
TEACH MENTAL WELLNESS WORKSHOPS. The Red Cross conducts mental wellness courses, called Resiliency Workshops, for military and veteran families in need.
· Programs are free, confidential and offered in-person or online by licensed mental health professionals.
· The programs help service members, veterans and their families build resilience, manage stress and address trauma.
· Mental health professionals serve as volunteer leaders of Resiliency workshops for military and veteran communities.
Volunteer Today – Turn your appreciation into action by volunteering with the Red Cross today. To learn more, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact your local Red Cross chapter about open availabilities to join a dedicated team that supports U.S. service members and their families at home and around the world.
Visit www.redcross.org/saf for full information about programs that support military communities.