By Jordan Scott, Communications Director, Red Cross Capital Region
I grew up in a military family. My grandfather flew B-24’s over Europe in World War II, and continued his service to our country over a distinguished and decorated career in the United States Air Force. My father followed a similar path, serving nearly 30 years as a flight navigator, working at the Pentagon, and retiring as a Lt. Colonel. In fact my father’s side of the family all served in the Air Force. Two uncles fought in Vietnam, others in the Gulf War, and one uncle even earned the honor to lead the USAF Thunderbirds!
Needless to say, though I did not serve myself, I hold the military and those who do serve very near to my heart.
One of my greatest military memories occurred in 2004 as an employee of a local radio station. Twice that year I had the great honor to accompany nearly 100 WWII veterans to Washington DC to tour the city and visit the recently completed WWII Memorial. I simply can’t put into words how incredible it was to be surrounded by so many from the “Greatest Generation” as they had the chance to view such an awesome tribute to their service and sacrifice for the first time – and for most, sadly, their only time.
But the most amazing thing was hearing their stories. Stories of Pearl Harbor on that infamous day; surviving the Bataan Death March; one vet, Bob Addobatti, even joked that he left his leg in New Guinea. Perhaps not the lightest of material, but he and the others were among friends. Many stories had been untold since the war, but these men and women were now among others who could completely understand and relate. It was a remarkable thing to witness.
Another touching moment came in one of those twists you’d have trouble believing in a Hollywood production as one of our veterans, by pure chance, met a German citizen who had been in the same town together the day it was liberated by US and Allied troops. Sixty years after the fact, this man could be face to face with one of the brave men who helped to free his town and say ‘thank you’. Just thinking about it makes me smile.
Years later, here I am at the Red Cross. Prior to my time here I had of course heard the stories of Clara Barton on the battlefields helping our wounded soldiers. I knew that serving our military was a cornerstone of what we do, but I never could have imagined just how special and impactful that part of our mission really was. Among our core services to provide emergency communication links between deployed military members and their families, our region alone fulfills thousands of these requests every year. We participate in pre- and post-deployment briefings to help connect service members and families with critical services to help them during the separation of deployments and readjusting to life at home after deployment. This is our charge and we do it well, each and every day.
But the most impressive thing to me has always been the ‘little things’. Signing greeting cards – or posters, like we’re doing this year – and putting together care packages. This year we even coordinated the largest care package effort of its kind with June’s ‘Operation Care Package’. Little did we know our goal of generating enough donated supplies to fill 250 care packages was merely a drop in the bucket of what would come. The community responded with truckloads of supplies filling thousands of packages.
[Pictured – Tobrin Hewitt, Manager of the Capital Region Service to the Armed Forces program and a US Army Veteran, delivers a thank you banner to the Veterans Home of California in Redding]
The little things are community events like military resource fairs, and visits with our veterans at VA facilities. The little things are hosting more than 100 WWII veterans and honoring their service at our local airshow. The little things are special evening like our recent Gala, at which we pay tribute to our military members. The little things are attending welcome home events, memorial services, and stand downs. These are not necessarily things the Red Cross is required to do, but rather they are things that are important and we are driven to do.
With that in mind, the little things also include the level of passion and reverence with which our volunteers meet every one of these opportunities. Sometimes it can be challenging to find enough volunteers for a particular happening, but if it’s an event recognizing our military, the only challenge is often running the risk of having too many volunteers. It’s a great ‘problem’ to have, as few things truly call for ‘all hands on deck’ like a call to honor those who serve our country!
Finally, I am continually in awe of the number of veterans who turn to the Red Cross for an opportunity to provide this support and continue to ‘give back’ to their fellow service members. We have volunteers and staff from all branches of the Armed Forces, each and every one of them giving their all in service. To put it quite mildly, it’s inspiring.
[Pictured – Will McComb, US Coast Guard Veteran and Red Cross volunteer, assists at October’s California Capital Airshow]
Veterans Day is a single day out of the year set aside to reflect on the service and sacrifice of those who have served our country in defense of our freedoms. While it is certainly an important day for an important purpose, I am proud to be a part of, not just an organization but a group people, who take great pride in honoring and supporting the brave and selfless men and women of our Armed Forces today and everyday. To all those who have served, are serving, and will serve, we offer a most humble and sincere thank you. Happy Veterans Day!