Tag Archives: Military

Northern California Coastal Region supports vets with comfort kits

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SAF Director Go Funai, Kathleen Lenihan, Marilyn Byington, Leeann Woodward, and Julianna Jaynes deliver comfort kits to the San Francisco VA Medical Center.  Photo: Nanette Shamieh | American Red Cross

The Covid-19 pandemic has hampered more than a few activities, but it has also spawned a number of opportunities. For example, shelter in place orders forced the canceling of several stand downs. A stand down is an event hosted for veterans where they can avail themselves of a variety of resources in one place. Resources include medical and dental treatment as well as haircuts in a safe and secure temporary environment.

Each veteran attending receives a comfort kit. These kits typically include a toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, shaving cream, razor, shampoo, etc. According to Kathleen Lenihan, a retired Army Officer and Service to Armed Forces volunteer, “Walmart and other generous partners donate money, goods or make the kits.”

And with the cancellation of stand downs, a number of kits that were going unused.

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A surprise phone call: one woman’s American Red Cross story

By Marcia Antipa

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Abby and son, Carl, in 1967.

In October of 1966, Abby Chapman and Carl Borders had been married just a year and a half, when Carl shipped off to Vietnam. Abby had just learned that she was pregnant with their first child. The war and the pregnancy would bring the American Red Cross into her life for the first time.

As a recent medical school graduate, Carl was in high demand in wartime. He was assigned to a new Army MUST field hospital in Tay Ninh. MUST stands for Medical Unit, Self-contained, Transportable.

“I felt as though he was fairly safe there, and he wasn’t. Mortars were attacking his company and the hospital. It was very disheartening for me to think this was where he was going.”

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The work of the Red Cross continues – no matter what

The past six weeks have been unusually quiet in Northern California. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced much of the population indoors on shelter-in-place orders. For many, the 9-to-5 workday is a recent memory; classrooms are eerily silent. Parking lots nationwide sit empty; all but essential storefronts are closed indefinitely. The entire country has seemingly ground to a halt.

And yet, there are segments of the American workforce that forge on stronger than ever: intrepid healthcare workers, food service employees, first responders, and American Red Cross volunteers and employees. As the largest humanitarian aid organization in the country, the work of the Red Cross is constant, as is our commitment to helping those that need us.
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JJ Lara, American Red Cross San Francisco 2019 Volunteer of the Year

by Marcia Antipa

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JJ, center front, surrounded by fellow Red Crossers at the 2019 Bay Area Holiday Party. Photo by Eric Carmichael | American Red Cross

“Bringing people together for a great cause and a great organization.”  That’s how JJ Lara describes his role as a volunteer for the American Red Cross, and it is key to his winning the San Francisco Volunteer of the Year award.

From Fleet Week to the Leadership Council, and a few roles that might surprise you, JJ has spent seven years giving to the organization.

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Red Crossers Pose with Battle of the Bulge Prisoner of War Dan McCabe

Mccabe 420x270The American Red Cross supports veterans and families all across the U.S., proudly serving those who serve our nation. A brief look at the reach our services have had this year includes 65,439 emergency communications to 117,580 military members and their families. 162,200 families were served this year to date. Volunteers provide home comforts and critical services on bases and in military hospitals around the world. We support military families during deployments and emergencies. We continue servicing our nation’s veterans after their service ends. We enjoy getting to know each and every individual’s personal story and look forward to participating in local events and parades aimed at honoring our nation’s heroes.

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Stories of Service and An Opportunity to Serve Those Who Serve Our Country

By Julianna Jaynes, an AmeriCorps member

Both of my parents grew up in military families, but with neither of them enlisting, I grew up a generation removed from being considered an immediate family member.  Having been born much later than when any of my family members were active in the military, I did not have the chance to experience their service alongside them but instead was introduced to them when they were already proud military veterans.

jaynes5Sitting at the dinner table, my whole family laughing, my Uncle Sammy once again tells the same story that, in my mind, is paired with the essence of who he was.  He would always smile as he told it, even though I’m quite sure that on the day the story took place, he was doing the exact opposite. See, my Uncle Sammy was a paratrooper in Central America, and in his youth, he was quite proud to have earned the title. Unfortunately for him and his pride, during his very last training jump, he managed to land not on his target, and not even on the ground near his target, but instead, in an unsuspecting and probably quite surprised tree. With that, he managed to break his leg, expel himself from the paratroopers, and was instead sent to Germany to be the assistant of a Jewish chaplain stationed there not long after the end of World War II. Though the story told at the dinner table would usually end here, followed by the continuous teasing of my family, his military experience did not. My Uncle Sammy, a once paratrooper, now chaplain’s assistant and Jewish American soldier, instead went on to help a still-grieving community heal from the recent trauma of the Holocaust.

jaynes3My grandfather passed when I was still relatively young. Yet, I will always remember the tribute the Navy paid to him when he passed, for how much it honored both his memory and his service, even though he had been active many, many years before. Though I only had to chance to know him when I was young, meaning I never got the chance to hear about his service from him, my dad was able later to tell me about his time in the military. He had enlisted in the Navy during the Korean War and spent most of his time repairing ship motors in Japan and Hawaii. Two Navy members came to his memorial service and presented us with the American flag. To this day, every time I see it, proudly framed in a wooden triangle, I always think of him.

jaynes2My mom was born an army brat on a base near Huntsville, Alabama, to my grandmother, an outgoing civil rights activist, and my grandfather, an army engineer, serving during Vietnam. They entered the service right as the sputnik missile was being launched into space, meaning that all the engineers stationed there were working hard to catch up.  Being the critical mission that it was, the debate was rampant in the arsenal, and to encourage the troops to get back on track so that the USA could win the space race, John F Kennedy himself showed up to the base. My grandfather met the president with an outstretched hand and a quiet “wow.” Telling the story now, my grandfather always assures us that this was not in response to meeting the president of the United States, but instead was a reaction to the president’s choice of clothes. “I’d never seen a $1500 suit in real life before.”


When I saw an AmeriCorps position open for “Service to the Armed Forces,” I honestly thought something along the lines of: “Cool. I guess I’ll be teaching them about disasters or something.” As it turns out, service to the armed forces means so much more than that. I had no idea that the Red Cross acted as a verifier to help the military make informed leave decisions. I had no idea that if an active member or a veteran called desperately needing financial assistance, that caseworkers at the red cross would work tirelessly to connect them with organizations and resources that could help them. I had no idea about the work that was put into comfort kits, disaster kits, and events for active military members, veterans, and their families.


One of my very first cases was a MEPS call, meaning I was simply calling the family of a newly active military member to let them know that the Red Cross offers these sorts of services.  I got a very concerned father on the phone, who needed absolutely every crumb of information repeated so he could write it down, even though I assured him the information would again be sent to him in written form.  With this call, I could hear a woman who at one point identified herself as the mother, asking him to then repeat the information to her, so that she could write it down on a separate piece of paper, just in case the first piece of paper got lost, even though, again, I assured them several times the information would be sent to them.  I remember hanging up this call and thinking of my family. Of remembering these stories and realizing how glad I was to know that the Red Cross was there for them, and how glad I am to know that the Red Cross will continue to be there for military members, active or veterans, and their families all across the country.

It’s hard to believe, too, that this is just the tip of the incredible iceberg that is service to the armed forces.  As my grandmother said, when I asked about her time on that army base in Alabama, “Serving our country is one of the most important [things]. Anybody who serves their country – they deserve to be taken care of.” Being a couple months into this position, I feel like that is exactly what the Red Cross does, and I am so happy to be a part of it.

On Veterans Day, the American Red Cross honors all the men and women who have served and sacrificed to protect and defend our country. Every day, the American Red Cross provides 24/7 global emergency communication services and support in military and veteran health care facilities across the country and around the world, and that is only possible because of our dedicated employees and volunteers. Learn more about our Service to the Armed Forces.

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