By Jayme Quick, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross
As the Bulldogs (LA Tech) and Midshipmen (Navy) face off in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl this weekend, it’s a good time to look back at just how much the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) branch of the American Red Cross has evolved.
While most have heard the story of battlefield nurse Clara Barton, and how she went on to found the American Red Cross in the wake of the Civil War, not many realize how the Red Cross’s military services have adapted since then.
As a veteran’s wife myself, I’ve long been interested in the work that the Red Cross does both for our deployed service members and their families back home.
When my husband was deployed to Iraq, it was common knowledge among us wives that the Red Cross would be there to help deliver emergency messages to our deployed husbands if necessary (which we all hoped it wouldn’t be). But what else is available?
It’s worth mentioning that the first congressional charter for the Red Cross was issued in 1900, and ever since then, a primary purpose of the organization has been to “serve as a medium of communication between members of the American armed forces and their families.” While this is still a vital role in 2016, imagine how important it was in 1900 – before webcams and satellite phones and emails. Back then, the Red Cross’s service was the only means of quickly sending a message to service members far from home.
During both World War I and II, and wars since then, American Red Cross volunteers have delivered medical supplies and provided medical services to service members. Following World War I, the Red Cross began aiding injured veterans upon their return home, and provided Canteen Services to servicemembers.
At the onset of World War II, the Red Cross began its National Blood Donor Service, to help collect blood for injured Armed Forces members. Volunteers responded to the attacks of Pearl Harbor almost instantly, delivering aid and supplies within minutes of the attacks. By the end of 1945, the Red Cross had collected over 13 million pints of blood for injured soldiers, sailors and airmen.
Through the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, the Red Cross continued its Services to the Armed Forces, and even aided with POW exchanges, such as those at the Bay of Pigs.
To better manage emergency communications, the American Red Cross opened the Armed Forces Emergency Services center in 1998, equipped with hi-tech communications systems.
As military conflicts and deployments continue to occur globally, the American Red Cross will continue its centuries-old tradition of providing members of the Armed Forces and their families with messages, supplies, and support, whenever – and wherever – they’re needed.