Remembering Our Military Forces in May

Story by Diane DeVitto/Red Cross Cascades Region

After the rainy month of April, we’re glad to move into the sunshine of May. It’s the kickoff month for a season of barbecues, picnics and other festive events such as Mother’s Day. But two other holidays in May need to be remembered:  Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day. 

Saturday, May 19, is Armed Forces Day, which celebrates the dedicated men and women who serve in our military forces today.

In years past, each branch of the military had its own day, but now we acknowledge them all on Armed Forces Day. Whether they serve in the Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines, they deserve our gratitude and respect.

Memorial Day falls on Monday, May 28. It is meant to be more than the end of a three-day weekend spent shopping for sales or watching movies with friends. Memorial Day is designated as a time to reflect on the sacrifices our fallen soldiers have made for us. These men and women gave their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms we so often take for granted.

During the Civil War, our founder, Clara Barton, saw the great need to help wounded soldiers, regardless of whether they were Union soldiers or Confederate prisoners. Known as the “Angel of the Battlefield,” Barton nursed thousands of men throughout the war, more than 3,000 men during the 2 battles of Bull Run alone. She was quoted as saying, “If I can’t be a soldier, I’ll help soldiers.”

Barton diligently tended to their wounds, both physical and emotional.  After the war, she continued to serve the military by helping families locate their missing or deceased loved ones from battle. Her ongoing work to help military families and other people in need was the beginning of the American Red Cross. More than 130 years later, we carry forward her legacy.

When a military family experiences a crisis, the Red Cross provides emergency communications that link a family with their deployed service member during the emergency. This is done through our Red Cross Emergency Contact Center and offices around the world. (See a recent story we posted about Crista and Theran Golden: The Red Cross Connects Army Father with Wife and Newborn Son.)

The Red Cross also provides Military Families Financial Assistance and referral services. The Red Cross partners with military aid societies to ensure military members and their families have access to emergency funds 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year wherever they are located.

We are committed to helping family members deal with the challenges they face while their loved one is serving away from home and after the military member returns home. Our Coping with Deployment  course provides information on how to strengthen a family’s ability to respond to the issues they may encounter throughout an extended deployment cycle.  Our Homecoming and Reconnection Workshops focus on topics designed to enhance positive reconnections among family members and the successful reengagement of the service member into civilian life.

Here’s a look back at the Red Cross with our military throughout the years…

Vietnam:  Getting a message from home and sending a message home

Vietnam:  Offering a smile with a cold drink and lifting spirits during time off

Korea:  Writing a message home from the hood of a jeep and handing out donuts to evacuees arriving in Pusan

Of special note:  In March 1951, Colonel Marshall wrote a letter to the editor of the Detroit News regarding a Red Cross worker.  In an excerpt he wrote:

“During those two terrible days in November when wounded and frozen members of the 7th Infantry Division were being rescued across the ice of the Chosin [Changjin] Reservoir by men from the 1st Marine Regiment, there was one of their number who refused to be evacuated. Once rescued, he dragged other men to safety from under the fire of Chinese snipers, only 150 yards away. Lost in admiration of this performance, the Marines wanted to decorate him. He said, ‘I’m supposed to do this work; I’m the Red Cross man with the 7th Division.’”

World War II:  Providing a plasma transfusion in New Guinea and connecting a liberated prisoner of war with his mother at home

World War II:  Red Cross Clubmobile and Red Cross Service Club

World War I:   Tending the wounded

Civil War:  Assisting a surgeon on the battlefield and providing an ambulance

As the upcoming military holidays approach, let’s be sure to thank our men and women in uniform who serve faithfully and the family and friends that support them.