Friday, July 5, 2013

Before a Military Deployment, Reach Out to the Red Cross

As Americans prepare to salute the military this week for the Fourth of July, the American Red Cross wants to remind people of the services it provides to military members before, during and after deployments.

Dianna Rios knows first-hand how important the support of the Red Cross was during her husband’s deployment to Iraq. When two of her children were in a serious car accident, she didn’t bother calling the Red Cross. She immediately got in her car and drove to her Red Cross chapter in Albany, New York, to ask for help in reaching her husband. “It was a really crucial time,” Rios said, and she knew she could count on her friends at the Red Cross.

One of her goals during her husband’s deployment was to help her youngest daughter, Nicaya, five-years-old at the time, cope with her father’s absence. With help from her local chapter, she started a Military Family Support Group, which gathered military families together once a month for activities, such as seeing a baseball game, going to the aquarium, apple picking and ice skating.

“If it were not for the Red Cross it wouldn’t have worked,” Rios said. The support group provided her daughter with other children who could understand just what she was experiencing.

Rios’ passion for the Red Cross led her to eventually become a Service to the Armed Forces manager at the Albany chapter. Her main piece of advice for military families facing deployment is to reach out to their local Red Cross chapter before the deployment to become familiar with their services:

Emergency Communications Services

When a military family experiences a crisis, the Red Cross can reach the military member and his/her commanding officer with notifications, such as the death or serious illness of an immediate family member or the news of the birth of a child or grandchild. Even if the service member receives an email or phone call from home, Red Cross-verified information assists the member and his/her commanding officers with making a decision regarding emergency leave.

Deployment Services

There are practical and emotional challenges to deployments, and the Red Cross has developed workshops, resources and support services to help military members and their families thrive.

Every day, Red Cross volunteers serve the wounded, ill and injured in military hospitals and Veterans Affairs medical facilities around the world. These volunteers provide comfort, support and peace of mind to members of the military community recovering in these facilities.

Financial Assistance

Partnering with the Air Force Aid Society, Army Emergency Relief, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance and Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, the Red Cross can help provide quality, reliable financial assistance to eligible applicants. Assistance can include funds for emergency travel, burial of a loved one, emergency food and shelter and other needs.

Information and Referral Services

The Red Cross offers confidential services to all military personnel and their families. This can range from help in responding to emergency needs for food, clothing, and shelter, referrals to counseling services (e.g., financial, legal, mental health), respite care for caregivers and other resources that meet the unique needs of military members, veterans and their families.

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