My First American Red Cross Story
- Fort Knox, Kentucky 1967
It was 1967, and my brand-new lieutenant husband and myself
were new at Fort Knox Army Base, South of Louisville, KY, USA.
He was getting his first officer's experience at "Home of Armor",
and soon to be sent for his time in Vietnam.
With the other Officers' Wives, I stayed busy at the crowded base,
contributing in community services of one sort or another
though all of it was new to me. I opted for Red Cross work.
Fresh from convent schools, at nineteen, I had seen little outside the social in the Northeast.
I really learned a lot and cherish all I learned.
I served a single ward made up of Vietnam casualties,
some of them longterm patients and others new to the hospital, and just off the battlefields in "'Nan", thanks to the new-at-the-time MEDIVAC projects:
getting wounded safely and quickly to hospitals in America ,
after battlefield stabilizing actions.
The ward I served was all male,
and some of them had been there for a few years, receiving
laborious skin and bone grafts (the hospital specialized in orthopedics).
Today the bone and skin repairs are done in a month, but back then it could be a few years ... the deadly risk of infection to exposed bone and skin that could only be repaired in small areas at one time, meant in-patient time was
very, very long.
Each week I became more impressed with the situation, and the people involved.
Everybody has fun with the color purple, but in those days,
it was the lavender blue of sheets permanently stained with tincture violet,
used to dress burns at the time.
My job was communications - connecting the new arrivals with their families, and letting them know their soldier was home and fine, and arranging travel and needs.
But for the most part, my job was simply to be there, to respond to many little tasks ... just anything these heroes might wish, within reason. I loved my job.
I became bemused sometimes,
because the men echoed corny John Wayne movies with the ward spirit
of rough and ready affability and camaraderie, and good nature,
in spite of pain and suffering without letup...
sometimes for years in some of their cases.
Visiting the patients on the ward involved having all the time in the world for them, if they wanted conversation, or an ear,
and other times, staying clear and giving them plenty of 'space.'
One of the men, in his twenties, it seemed...dark hair, pale skin, and nice...
signaled to me one morning, and I moved fast!
With purple sheets, limbs in slings, and teeth wired shut
from jaw injury, making communication and movement very difficult, and tiring.
If he called, it was important.
He was quite helpless, and his face showed the strain of trying to be a patient patient.
When I reached his bedside, he signaled more
than spoke that he needed help with some paperwork ...
always paperwork, no matter what! I reviewed it,
then I dropped everything! ... the papers were college application forms!!!!!
If anyone though HIM helpless, he was out to prove them wrong!
If anyone can define "winner" better than that, I would be happy to hear about it.
Anybody can do it when it's easy!!!
The word "COURAGE" makes people bashful, even when it's the right word. It was the right word!
At Ireland Army Hospital, it was very easy to feel, at the same time, passionately patriotic, and anti-war, anti-guns, anti-landmine.
That ward was for napalm and landmine victims.... just from the little I saw of such was profoundly moving.
I referred to my Red Cross work as "peace without the pot,"
in days when the explosive movement for peace was crowded with people smoking marijuana.
My husband won his sharpshooter medal in service and I used to love
being a fine shot with darts and "b-b-guns" as a child. Neither of us wanted much of it after what we saw in war days.
I am lucky in family and friends, and some of them are NRA, and I support their belief, and their rights to their beliefs.
But for me, after that,"No." Not as much as a squirt gun on my premises. No big noise about it, just "No".
But , back on the Ward: My husband and I learned we were expecting our first child soon,
and in those days, especially with a first baby,
that meant off duty from
hospital work with the ARC for a while. I had gotten to know and like them and my duties very much.
When I told the patients in my ward that the day would be my
last with them, and told them why?... pandemonium!!!!!
Cheers for the baby, my husband and for me, as though the child was theirrrown!
One of the wheelchair-bound grasped his crutches, as he pulled out of the chair and had the others wheel it under ME.
I thought I was in a movie again. They wheeled me about the ward, till I blushed!
What a rich day!
Maybe that first, fine experience is why I still love to serve as I can. E.S.F.
Preparedness Data &
American Red CrossThey "just do it" when it is most needed!
News about current crises & helpful links for Preparedness, Response, and Donations
Hurricane Categories Defined and More
FEMA.gov Federal Emergency Management Agency ~ helpful, informative for National Emergency scenarios. I am still learning at this site, myself
NOAA and Weather.gov Start page to National Weather Service and NOAA for Weather-related concerns
Weather.comA little less official, and easier to use for some, and helpful addition
White House Online, 911 and local Civil Defense Contacts, online and off, on radio and television
Redcross & Disaster Response ~ Worker Safety Issues
Redcross Notes / affiliates ~ Iraq / Middle East
Redcross Story Nineleven
Redcross Story ODS
Redcross Story Vietnam
Redcross & Military ~ Partnership ~ Brief History
"But I don't wanna get into Preparedness !"
"Why do they do it?" For those being helped.
Patron Saints for Aid in Distress
firstname.lastname@example.org Happy to refer, share comment, correct an error, and chat if I can.
more to come...visit again soon!
Comment and Praise in the Special Times: Former President George W. Bush Salutes the Military, Veterans, and Response Organizations
March 28, 2003.....
2:44 P.M. EST
"...I also appreciate all the veterans are doing for
America's military families in time of hardship.
I appreciate your compassion.
Across our country, local chapters of the
for example, are stepping forward to help
those families in practical ways,
from making household repairs to helping with child care.
Members of the VFW and Auxiliary are sending care packages
with baby supplies to military families.
Operation Uplink Program is helping thousands of
service members keep in touch with their loved ones.
Both the American Legion and the VFW and Auxiliary are working with the
U.S.A. Freedom Corps on a project called On the Home Front.
This effort will match Americans who want to volunteer their times and skills
with the military families who need help. Because of all this generosity,
our men and women serving overseas will know that their loved ones are not facing this time alone.
Autographed Huskies watercolor, from Katrina Response Goods Pack&Ship at Hartford National Guard Armory September 2005
Praise and Invitation to Visit
My headline says that this is NOT an offical RedCross site because Redcross must protect its work
in all respects to do its job right. Still, this is a good page, and a quick reference to more serious links, and shares insightful thought. I was amazed, myself, exploring the Redcross.org site, and urge all to "stop in"...
Don't wait for a disaster to find Redcross ! It is full of History, great images, stories, links for specific questions, forms, statitistics and, of course, the more familiar American Red Cross Subjects: response, blood services, education, and gifting. Enough to entertain and inform all afternoon!
You can also link to your local Redcross Chapter, or a Chapter near endangered loved ones. Redcross can help if you can't find out if they are ok. Red Cross is there ! And a significant portion of the outright gifts to afflicted families are never repaid. Whatever your feelings about fundraising, give to Red Cross! As one who has been there a little bit with them,and did up the helping forms, I must say I was impressed, especially by average "savvy" grownup standards.
A Disaster Shelter Story
thousands evacuated to shelters, this memory may be a fine one to share:
After some stateside help with ARCODS, it felt easy to do a little bit in my community, and when a blizzard in my Connecticut hometown on the Harbor threatened to flood homes on the beaches, I helped with a local evacuation shelter. If Florida's shelter people are as kind, and well set
up, as we devoted ourselves to being, no one needs to be especially concerned ... once the fears were in line, Fairfield's First Selectman at the time, Jacky Durrell arrived - our popular
"Duracell". She had her own wealth, was not doing the job for the pay, and she gifted Red Cross with some of it, and
"ordered up the pizza" for ALL the occupants of the shelter, staff and those being served. When Domino's Pizza
delivered that day, the delivery person needed to stay at the shelter, too , for a bit, to recover from the
size of the order! It took some of the edge off the tension, and saved the
helpers some "food prep". And gave us a "left-handed blessing" memory to share later.
This kind of "save the day" act is very human, and I'll bet that I could already make another page, here, just full of such stories. In fact the Red Cross site and this one do post such stories. When disaster strikes, part of good help is morale and such actions do the job. Red Cross, therefore, invites and welcomes such stories. They merit sharing, and do a lot of good. So please feel encouraged to submit your story of a great 'moment' that saved an awful day !
RED CROSS SERVICES ON THE WARFRONT IN IRAQ
Since military action began, the AFES(Armed Forces Emergency Services)
staff have endured up to a dozen scud and chemical/biological alerts.
Although the armed conflict in Iraq began just days ago,
the first American Red Cross staff on the contingency team
supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom arrived in Kuwait on January 25, 2003,
when they joined three AFES workers already on the ground.
Since their arrival, they have handled 3,390 cases involving 9,555
emergency communication messages.
Sixty-seven percent of the cases have dealt
with illness and death of family members;
12 percent are birth announcements.
We are seeing an average 20 percent weekly rise in cases,
and expect that to increase."
redcrossnewsletter march 21,2003