The American Red Cross: Serving those who serve

by Phyllis Cohn American Red Cross Regional Prom Director

Courtesy photo
Red Cross staff and volunteers pose for a photo at Red Cross Day March 11 at the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center. The event was part of the campaign to promote the American Red Cross and to raise awareness about its mission in Europe as well as to inform people about Red Cross programs and upcoming events.

The American Red Cross is one of the most well-known emergency response organizations in the world. Polls show that the Red Cross ranks at the top as one of the most recognizable brands among large, high-profile organizations.

But what many don’t know is that the American Red Cross’ service to the armed forces has supported the military and their families for more than a century from the Civil War in the 1860s to today at hundreds of military installations around the world, including deployed sites in Djibouti, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. Through the Red Cross Hero Care Network, they provide worldwide 24/7 support whenever and wherever it’s needed. Their paid and volunteer staff support over 2 million members of the military, veterans, and their families with many services.

Here in the KMC, the local stations at Ramstein AB, Landstuhl, and Baumholder provide support to the whole footprint, and their Hero Welcome Center at Kleber is devoted to supporting in-processing soldiers.

As part of “March is Red Cross Month,” the Ramstein station held a Red Cross Day at the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center. With a focus on building resiliency within the military community for service members and their families, the Red Cross provided information on emergency preparedness, building a personal resiliency toolkit, public health and safety services, and volunteering. A section managed by the Ramstein High School Red Cross Youth Club focused on educating young children about Preparedness. Their healthy behaviors mascot, Scrubby Bear, engaged children in story telling about washing your hands and staying germ free.

As with all of the services the Red Cross provides, they rely on a cadre of volunteers. In fact, it was Staff Sgt. Juan Mario Gomez-Navarro, a fuel systems craftsman for the 721st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Enroute Unit, who was the project lead for the March 11 event. He coordinated by organizing the tables, recruiting volunteers, setting up the audio-visual and getting 100 balloons from the community center.

“I wanted to volunteer with the Red Cross because part of being an AF Airman is giving back for the support we receive. I believe we owe it to our community to keep them informed of the resources they have available to them,” Gomez-Navarro said. “It was so much fun to watch hundreds of visitors engage with and learn about the Red Cross.”

In fact, Red Cross Staff and volunteers are engaged every day supporting our military community emergency communication message services, through volunteer engagement for Red Cross and base programs, providing predeployment, newcomer’s and spouse briefings, partnering with the Armed Services Blood Program and supporting Base Disaster Response, just to name a few.

Always looking for new ways to engage the community, the Red Cross has launched two programs that focus on community and family resiliency: the Disney Pillowcase Project and Reconnection Workshops.

The mission of the Pillowcase Project, which is a free emergency preparedness program for third- to fifth-grade youth, is to increase children’s awareness and understanding of natural hazards and empower them to take preparedness actions. One important aspect of the project is for children to share what they have learned with family and friends, so they can help create a prepared community.

The free and confidential Reconnection Workshops help service members and their families cope with the challenges of readjusting to life during the deployment cycle and promoting successful reengagement upon a service member’s return home. Run by licensed mental health professionals, these workshops encourage peer-to-peer interaction and problem solving. These interactive workshops, such as communicating clearly or identifying depression, provide hands-on tools to assist participants. There are also workshops that are geared specifically to empowering children with some strategies relating to their own issues surrounding deployment.

With myriad diverse services, programs and classes that the Red Cross offers, their overarching mission remains the same: to serve those who serve. With the help and support of the military community and the selfless commitment from volunteers, the Red Cross will continue to be an important presence in the KMC.

Gomez-Navarro sums it nicely, “I highly encourage others to get involved with this organization and meet the amazing people who already have made the important decision to be a part of a mission bigger than themselves.”