Today’s American Red Cross is keeping pace with the changing military. Using the latest in computer and telecommunications technology, the Red Cross sends communications on behalf of family members who are facing emergencies or other important events to members of the U.S. Armed Forces serving all over the world.
These communications are delivered around the clock, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
While providing services to 1.4 million active duty personnel and their families, the Red Cross also reaches out to more than 1.2 million members of the National Guard and the Reserves and their families who reside in nearly every community in America.
Locally, the Rock River Chapter has assisted 378 military members and their families in times of crisis while providing 19 international tracing services.
The chapter has recently begun to develop the VIDITalk project. VIDITalk is a powerful, cost effective, easily implemented solution to improve communications. It enables loved ones to easily create and send high-quality personal video messages (VIDIs) from their computer to their friend or relative serving our country overseas on high-speed or dial-up connections. The user creates a video message on their computer where it is automatically compressed, encoded, and sent to the hosting server. The VIDITalk server returns a hyperlink to the creator for placement into email, instant messages or any electronic document. Recipients click on the link and view the streamed video message in a customized playback screen using Microsoft Windows Media Player.
The American Red Cross’ legendary service to the military has received its share of detractors over the years. An outstanding grievance is the story about the Red Cross selling coffee and doughnuts instead of giving them away to military personnel during World War II.
This unfortunate policy came into being because service agencies in Britain helping British military personnel were less well-financed than the American Red Cross.
Thus, these agencies were forced to charge British military members for the same items that American service members were getting free from the American Red Cross.
To avoid further embarrassment to the British, who were playing host to thousands of U.S. troops, the U.S. secretary of war requested that the American Red Cross begin charging American service members for such items as coffee and doughnuts in its canteens. The Red Cross interpreted this request as a wartime demand and complied so that it could continue aiding U.S. troops. However, the Red Cross sold items at or below cost and never profited a penny from these sales.
Since the end of World War II, the American Red Cross has not charged military personnel— not in the Korean, Vietnam, or Persian Gulf conflicts, for example. If you were 126 years old, chances are there would be a lot of stories about you — and some of them wouldn’t be true!
Community-based military members and their families are entitled to the same valuable Red Cross emergency services as full-time active duty personnel. When your doctor, your pharmacist, or your neighbor is mobilized or deployed with the Reserve or National Guard, the American Red Cross is there.
We keep them in touch with their families at home, verify emergency leave information, secure emergency financial assistance and help families cope with separation when their loved ones are far from home in defense of our country. For information on Armed Forces Emergency Services feel free to contact the Rock River Chapter at: 815-963-8471.
Cedric A. Johnson is community relations specialist for Rock River Chapter of the American Red Cross.