Get to know us before you need us

A Red Cross volunteer supports this military family at Quantico Marine Base in Virgina.

In January, the American Red Cross began a program to provide information and services to military families on the day their loved one leaves for boot camp.

During the briefings at the Military Entrance Processing Station, a Red Cross provides information about Red Cross emergency communication services.

Emergency communication allows immediate family members to utilize the Red Cross in order to contact their service member in the event of an emergency. With the information the family provides, the Red Cross has the ability to locate the service member and relay the message. It is then up to the military member’s command to approve a leave of absence.

When Sheila Parnell’s son, Brian, went into the service in the Navy, the Red Cross gave her family a packet with information on how to get help should a family emergency arise.

“So when our emergency happened, I knew where to go,” said the Grover, N.C., resident.

Sheila’s husband, Darrell Parnell, has been battling health problems and injuries for years. He’s had triple bypass surgery and was involved in a severe automobile accident.

Disabled and out of work, Darrell suffered another heart attack while Brian was away from home with the Navy.

“I was totally on my own besides one young son, and I was overwhelmed,” Sheila said.

She contacted the Red Cross to bring Brian home early, which allowed her to continue working while Brian cared for Darrell.

The Red Cross volunteer Sheila worked with followed up with her to ensure everything was going well.

“She stayed with me every step of the way,” Sheila said. “You may think that you’ll never need that help – but you don’t know. At the snap of a finger, your whole life can be turned upside down.”

Every year in our Carolina Piedmont Region, the Red Cross provides this service for nearly 1,000 military families.

It is important that military families (spouses, parents, significant other) prepare ahead of time to have the service member’s name, rank, unit name, and physical address available to give to the caseworker. The caseworker is dependent upon the information that the family provides to locate the service member. Without this information, there can be a delay in getting the emergency message sent. The Red Cross provides refrigerator magnets and wallet cards that make it easier for families to keep the information in one easy to access document. In a crisis, it is difficult to search through multiple records in order to find the information that is needed.

Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces coordinator Robin Callahan said, “I am honored by the opportunity to be of assistance to our service members and their loved ones. We at the Red Cross, express our greatest appreciation for their choice to serve this country.”

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