The American Red Cross is well known for its blood donation drives, its CPR training classes, and its role in providing disaster relief. However, the organization also spearheads a number of other important initiatives, including services for military and veteran families. For members of the armed forces and their families, military service can involve sacrifice and hardship.
To give back to people who serve our country, the American Red Cross has created several different programs. Since 9/11, more than 1 million military families have received some kind of support from the organization.
Red Cross Deployment Support Services
Deployment is always a stressful time, whether it is the first for a family, or simply the next in a long line of moves. The American Red Cross has created workshops that can help individuals face the emotional challenges of deployment and deal with the more practical concerns. The Coping with Deployment Course is meant for spouses, significant others, siblings, older children, and parents. The class helps participants build the emotional skills needed to cope effectively with the deployment cycle. In addition to this course, the organization offers a pre-deployment preparedness checklist that families can use to ensure they are ready for deployment. Available on the Red Cross website, the list systematically covers the different matters that are important to address before deployment, such as communication, finances, legal issues, and emergency planning.
The American Red Cross continues to offer support after individuals return from deployment as well. Reconnection Workshops help military members and their families transition back into the rhythm of life together. These individual and small group discussion sessions also help active service members and veterans reintegrate back into civilian life. Currently, the organization offers a number of Reconnection Workshops focused on specific themes, including Relating to Children, Identifying Depression, Exploring Stress and Trauma, and Working Through Anger.
Information Referral Services for Military Families
Military families can count on receiving confidential assistance in connecting to various local, state, and national resources. Through local Red Cross chapters in the United States and abroad, individuals can learn about the resources available to them. Each chapter maintains connections with key community partners that can help military families in a variety of situations. In addition, Red Cross representatives can identify needs for individuals who simply feel overwhelmed and unable to articulate the kind of help they’re looking for. The representative can then connect them to the appropriate organizations.
Historically, families have relied on the Red Cross to meet a wide variety of needs, from food, clothing, and shelter, to less tangible needs like mental health counseling. The organization can also connect people to respite care for caregivers, financial counseling services, legal assistance, and more.
In addition, active duty service members, individuals in the National Guard or a Reserve unit, and their family members can apply for financial assistance. The organization also offers financial help for military retirees and their spouses.
A Focus on the Needs of Veterans
While many of the services offered by the American Red Cross are aimed at active duty military families, veterans still have a number of different resources on which they can rely. The organization has provided services to veterans since World War I. Veterans have full access to the Red Cross referral services, including assistance obtaining information on veterans cemeteries, burial benefits, and other issues unique to this population.
Applying for veterans benefits can be overwhelming, but Red Cross assistants help ensure that people have all the supporting evidence they need and help them prepare the required paperwork. If veterans wish to file a claim with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, the organization can also facilitate that. Red Cross assistants who work in this capacity are accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ensure that they understand the intricacies of the system.
The organization also mobilizes volunteers to serve veterans in their communities. Individuals can help out in military hospitals domestically and internationally and also volunteer with the VA through the Red Cross. Volunteers help veterans who are undergoing physical rehabilitation and often provide them with relaxing, recreational experiences. In addition, volunteers are needed to assist with administrative duties, to ensure that all veterans have timely access to services.
Connecting Families with Emergency Communications
One of the most important American Red Cross services for military families is emergency communications. The organization has facilitated more than 35,000 communications to service members and their families. Around the clock, individuals can request communication assistance online or by phone. By providing their loved one’s name, rank, military branch, and other identifying information, family members can connect with him or her.
While the Red Cross cannot authorize emergency leave for the service member, it does verify the emergency, so that the service member’s commander can make an informed decision. If leave is authorized, the Red Cross can provide transportation assistance and other financial help, depending on the nature of the emergency. The amount of financial aid, and whether the aid comes as a grant or a loan, is decided by one of the Military Aid Societies, not the Red Cross. However, the organization’s help ensures that access to these financial resources is available on a 24/7 basis.