Red Cross helps unite military family following explosion and home fire

“I didn’t know that emergency communications for military families in times of a disaster was something the Red Cross could help with.”

Early one morning in February, in Rapid City, South Dakota, a loud noise awakened Misti O’Connor. “Startled, I rushed outside to see what was going on and I could ‘hear’ the gas,” said Misti. A vehicle had crashed through the camper parked in her driveway, and then into her neighbor’s home, rupturing a gas line and causing the home to explode. This set the O’Connor’s garage on fire.

Aerial view of the damage at the O’Connor’s and neighbor’s houses. Submitted photo.

Misti ran back into the house to get her kids and that’s when they heard the next explosion. “It was really scary,” recalls Raenan, her 8-year-old son.

The O’Connor’s garage and camper following an explosion at their neighbor’s house. Submitted photo.

Back outside, Misti tried calling her husband, Jason, a staff sergeant deployed with the South Dakota Army National Guard on U.S. southern border. “He didn’t pick up at first because it was the middle of the night.  I had to try several times.” Finally, they connected and once Misti explained what was happening, they both started making calls to see if they could get him home. Jason informed his guard command that there was an emergency at home and he needed to go.

Meanwhile, the local Red Cross disaster action team (DAT) was dispatched to respond to the fire and immediately mobilized volunteers, staff and the emergency response vehicle. On-site they provided hot chocolate to the first responders and people affected – and made sure everyone had a warm place to stay.

Extensive damage inside the O’Connor’s garage. Submitted photo.

Richard Felix, regional manager for Red Cross’s Service to the Armed Forces program in South Dakota, was part of the fire response team. Once he found out that Jason was deployed, he informed them of the Red Cross emergency communications program for military members. “Being on-scene was crucial in helping this family make a connection and getting Sgt. O’Connor home when his family needed him most,” said Richard.

“I didn’t know that emergency communications for military families in times of a disaster was something the Red Cross could help with,” said Misti. “We don’t like to accept help from others, so I was very reluctant, but I’m glad the Red Cross was there to help!”

They made the necessary arrangements through the Red Cross and Jason was on a plane headed home to be with his family by Saturday afternoon – just a day after the disaster. “The Red Cross made it so easy,” Jason said.

Having her husband home during this time was “everything” to Misti. “At first, we didn’t know the extent of the damage, but once I saw it, I realized I needed him home. I don’t think I could have done it without his help – I could have, but it would have been hard.”

“I definitely needed to come home to be with my family – to provide moral support,” said Jason who was able be at home for 10 days before returning to his deployment.

The O’Connor family spent five nights in a hotel before returning to their home. There’s still no electricity in the garage, but they’re getting close to having the work completed. “We’re just grateful things weren’t worse, and Jason was able to be home with me and the kids during such a scary and uncertain time,” said Misti.

Misti and Jason O’Connor with their children Raenan (8) and Lorelai (6). Submitted photo.

The Red Cross helps members of the military, veterans and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to, the challenges of military service. Click here to learn more about Red Cross services for military and veteran families.

Step aside Baby Yoda: Red Cross gets soldier home in time for Baby Cory love

By Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Late on January 25, Sergeant Cory Hicks was preparing for the next day of training in Virginia when he answered a call from his fiancé, Sergeant Shanyn France in Minnesota.

“They hold each other up,” says Janelle France about the relationship of her daughter Sergeant Shanyn France and Sergeant Cory Hicks. (Family photo)

She had just taken a shower but could not get dry. “Just dry off, I told her. I can’t, she said, water is running down my leg. I got a call back later that said her water broke and that she was going into labor.”  This was one month before their baby was due.

Cory remembered his training packet and a Red Cross brochure tucked inside. The ‘Hero Care Network’ brochure explained the steps for requesting emergency communications assistance. Cory reached out to his course instructor who said maybe the Red Cross could help.

Once the test results confirmed Shanyn’s water had definitely broke, her mom Janelle France made the call to Red Cross that would get Cory home. She provided all the information needed to give him the best chance of getting home. “We were also texting Cory to try to not have him panic,” she says.

Cory rarely panics these days. He has served 12 years in the U.S. Army Reserves with the 353rd Transportation Company based in Buffalo, Minnesota. When he was 19 years old, he deployed to northern Iraq where he supported fuel missions. “If you get me behind the wheel of a trailer, I’m phenomenal at it,” he says. The premature birth of his first child was another matter. “It was nerve racking because Shanyn was dilating a centimeter every hour.”

Sergeant Shanyn France, Cory Junior, and Sergeant Cory Hicks together as a family for the first time. (Family photo)

At around 4 a.m. on January 26, a verified Red Cross message arrived and requested his return. He’d have to drop leadership training for now. It was, his instructor said, Cory’s decision. That day, he got the last seat on the last flight going to Minnesota. Word of the crisis made its way to the Delta pilots, who asked everyone to stay seated while Cory exited. “The whole plane erupted, and I got to run off the plane. It was pretty cool. That could have been the difference between me making the birth because I had just an hour to spare until baby Cory was born.”

Shanyn was scared. “I was excited, but I was scared that he was not going to make it in time because airports are always tough to get through.” She hung on while Cory raced to the hospital in Coon Rapids. “He didn’t have time to change out of his uniform. I don’t even think I gave him a hug because I was so miserable.” She then asked for an epidural after 23 hours in labor.

Being there for the birth of his child was only part of Cory’s urgency. The other part was “just being able to comfort Shanyn while she was in a lot of pain,” he says.

Baby Cory arrived one month early. “It’s pretty amazing,” says his dad Sergeant Cory Hicks who arrived with only an hour to spare before Cory Jr.’s birth. (Family photo)

“They hold each other up. And there’s nothing these two won’t do for that little boy,” says Janelle, who has worked every reserves drill weekend at unit headquarters since her daughter joined in 2016. “Without the Red Cross he would not have made it home.”

Baby Cory, also known as “CJ” for Cory Junior, is doing well at home after spending six days in a neonatal intensive care unit. Cory was there throughout each. He’s grateful for what the Red Cross does for service members. “Over the 12 years of my military experience I’ve heard about Red Cross, saw it work for others. I was skeptical until I had to use it. Someday I hope to give back.”

Click here to learn more about Red Cross services for military and veteran families.

Volunteers needed to support casework for service members

Crucial role helps active duty military and their families

The American Red Cross alleviates human suffering in several different capacities, but people may not know that the Red Cross is the only authorized organization to verify and relay emergency messages to activated service members through our Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Hero Care Network.

Photo by Roy Cox/American Red Cross

“When the Red Cross is alerted of a family emergency, we verify the information and contact the service member’s command within a matter of hours so they can get home as soon as possible,” says Alex Smith, who directs our SAF program in Minnesota.

Impact Fact  Each year the American Red Cross provides more than 422,000 services to service members, veterans and their families. 

The Red Cross in Minnesota is seeking 5 volunteers to do SAF casework so that our military members can be alerted when there is a family emergency. SAF caseworkers have three main responsibilities, which can be done remotely or at the office (volunteers can choose). The time commitment is about 3 hours per week. 

1. Briefing families and verifying contact card information. This step is an effort to get to know the family after military enrollment so that if the family reaches out with a family emergency in the future, it won’t be their first time speaking with us. This is also an opportunity to explain what the family should do in case of an emergency that necessitates contacting their service member.  

2. Family follow-up. This is what Red Cross does after facilitating contact when an emergency has occurred. We ask how they are doing and if there is anything else they need.  

3. Referral services. Caseworkers can provide referral and information to organizations that provide assistance resources for emergency needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter, and referrals to counseling services.

Minnesota Red Cross volunteers supported WWI relief efforts. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society

For more than 100 years, the Red Cross in Minnesota has provided comfort and support to members of the U.S. military and we continue to serve, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“We have a huge need,” says Sean Lundy, a Red Cross volunteer recruitment specialist in Minnesota. “Volunteers are more than 90 percent of our workforce. They have a crucial role in supporting our service members at home and abroad. “

Impact Fact  Last year Minnesota Red Cross volunteers supported 2,099 emergency communications and critical community cases.

Ideal candidates are supporters of the military with a desire to give back. Start your journey by creating a Red Cross volunteer ID here. For any questions about the role, send an email to our Volunteer Services team at

Post by Caroline Nelson for the American Red Cross

Supporting Service Members: What is a Stand Down?

Starting this August and continuing through fall, the Minnesota Red Cross will be among many organizations providing services for military veterans at Stand Down events. Below, we explain.

Minneapolis Stand Down for veterans, 2016. Photo by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

What is a Stand Down?

In times of war, exhausted combat units, requiring time to rest and recover, were removed from the battlefields to a place of relative security and safety. At secure base camp areas, troops were able to take care of personal hygiene, get clean uniforms, enjoy warm meals, receive medical and dental care, mail and receive letters, and enjoy the camaraderie of friends in a safe environment. Stand Down afforded battle-weary soldiers the opportunity to renew their spirit, health and overall sense of well-being.

Today, Stand Down refers to a grassroots, community-based intervention program designed to help the nation’s estimated 200,000 homeless veterans “combat” life on the streets. Homeless veterans are brought together in a single location and are provided access to the community resources needed to begin addressing their individual problems and rebuilding their lives. A Stand Down also affords the same respite and renewal to all veterans in an atmosphere conducive to change and recovery.

December 1970. Firebase Tomahawk, Vietnam. Grunts just in from the field open Red Cross ditty bags on Christmas morning. “This lonely outpost is  located in northern South Vietnam about 30 miles northwest of DaNang.” Photo by American Red Cross

What happens at a Stand Down?

Hundreds of homeless and at-risk veterans are provided with a broad range of necessities including food, clothing, medical, legal and mental health assistance, job counseling and referral, and most importantly, companionship and camaraderie. It is a time for the community to connect with the homeless veteran population and address this crisis that affects each and every town, city and state in this country. The hand up, not a handout philosophy of Stand Down is carried out through the work of hundreds of volunteers and organizations throughout the nation.

Who organizes and delivers theses services?

Hundreds of caring volunteers and professionals give of their time and expertise to address the unique needs of homeless veterans. Most Minnesota Stand Downs are organized by Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MAC-V), a non-profit focused on ending veteran homelessness in our state.

What does the Red Cross do at Stand Downs?

The Minnesota Red Cross, led by the Service to the Armed Forces team, comprised mostly of volunteers, has a booth at every Stand Down. We provide comfort kits containing items, such as soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, comb, and other personal hygiene items. Many of these kits are generously donated to us by supportive members of our community. We might also provide other support items, such as socks, emergency blankets, and first aid kits. We also help to connect veterans to other resources the Red Cross and our community partner’s provide.

At Stand Down events, the Red Cross provides comfort kits containing items, such as soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, comb, and other personal hygiene items. Minneapolis Stand Down, 2016. Photo by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross.

Where are the Minnesota Stand Downs held?

This year’s upcoming Minnesota Stand Downs are taking place at the following locations:

  • Minneapolis: Target Field, Aug. 16
  • International Falls: Backus Community Center,  Aug. 22
  • Duluth: Bayfront Festival Park, Aug. 23
  • Bemidji: National Guard Armory, Sept. 25
  • Grand Rapids: IRA Civic Center, Sept. 26
  • St. Cloud: River’s Edge Convention Center, Oct. 18
  • Mankato: Civic Center, Oct. 26

Want to Learn More?

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer supporting service members, feel free to contact Alex Smith at — author of this post. Thanks Alex!

Click here to learn more about our history providing relief to the wounded during times of war. And watch the video below.

Partnership in pictures: Women in manufacturing

On July 23, 2019, at the Women in Manufacturing conference in Cloquet, women made hygiene kits that American Red Cross volunteers will distribute to people in need of humanitarian aid. Photo by Jamie Lund with Pine Journal and published with permission.

USG Corporation hosted more than 50 women during the conference, which was held July 23 and 24. Part of the program included a day of service activity, which focused on supporting the Red Cross mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

To support service day, USG donated the kit supplies, including pillowcases, that turned into 250 comfort and hygiene kits. The kits will help at-risk military veterans and families affected by disasters, mostly home fires in northern Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin.

The service day event showed great leadership, teamwork and camaraderie. Special thanks go to local Red Cross volunteers Kyra, Penny, Mattie, Diane and Sophia, as well as Northern Minnesota Red Cross executive director Dan Williams.

For more about the conference, read this Pine Journal article by Jamie Lund. Click here to help the Red Cross provide shelter, food, and other relief during disasters. To learn more about Red Cross support for military families and veterans, click here.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are provided by Dan Williams with the American Red Cross Minnesota Region. Thanks Dan!

Hero Care App connects military families

rco_blog_img_herocareapp_img_7073The American Red Cross has a new mobile app for military families and veterans. The Hero Care App provides instant access to vital Red Cross services anywhere in the world. Whether you’re a military member, the parent of a child in the military, a military spouse, or a veteran, this free mobile application guides you to valuable resources and services that can help alleviate stress and provide important information at your fingertips.

With the Hero Care App you can...

  • Request Red Cross emergency services including an emergency message or assistance with emergency travel or emergency financial aid.
  • Securely and easily access information about their service member in the case of an emergency, including updated information as they move or change duty assignments.
  • Access non-emergency Red Cross behavioral health assistance including financial assistance and free local workshops for military kids and spouses.
  • Find local resources and information provided by trusted community partners like Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Blue Star Families, Military Child Education Coalition, United Way, Goodwill, Easter Seals, and others.
  • Locate information on key government resources such as MilitaryOneSource, VA Benefits and Services, Department of Labor VETS, the VA Caregiver Support Program, and SAMSHA Community Health Support Services.

In addition, with the Hero Care App you can connect with other Red Cross apps, such as the Emergency, First Aid and Blood apps.

To download to the Hero Care App to your smart phone or tablet, search for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store, text GETHEROCARE to 90999 to receive a download link, or go to The Hero Care App is available in English and Spanish.

Holiday Mail For Heroes Undergoes Changes 

Story by Lanet Hane – American Red Cross Volunteer

Holiday Mail for Heroes cards from the 2013  writing campaign. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Holiday Mail for Heroes cards from the 2013 signing campaign. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program is an annual program focused on bringing a little more holiday thanks and cheer to veterans, those currently serving in the armed forces, and their families. Individuals send cards, with handwritten notes of holiday tidings and thanks, to the Red Cross. The Red Cross distributes the cards to those who will most appreciate them during the holiday season. Veteran’s hospitals, Veteran’s homes, and families of currently deployed personnel are frequent recipients of Holiday Mail for Heroes holiday cards.

For the 2014 holiday season, the Red Cross is changing the format of the Holiday Mail for Heroes program to better serve military personnel as well as make effective use of donor resources. Rather than send all cards to a centralized national location, as has been done in the past, the Red Cross is empowering individual Red Cross chapters to collect cards from their own communities. Mike Booth, the Services to Armed Forces Director at the American Red Cross, says this new decentralized approach to the program will continue to be effective, but will reduce the number of financial and human resources.

Mike also emphasizes the fact that this program is designed not only for active military members. While Holiday Mail for Heroes does provide cards for those in active service, the program has a much wider scope. The cards contributed by community members may go to any number of people connected to the military.

Holiday Mail for Heroes card signing event at Neilson Place, Bemidji, MN, November 3, 2014.
Holiday Mail for Heroes card signing event at Neilson Place, Bemidji, MN, November 3, 2014. Photo credit: Linda Barkley/American Red Cross

Because the program is not limited to currently active military personnel, it also provides a unique opportunity for people to partner with the Red Cross in remembering veterans.  Many veterans receiving holiday cards are patients in VA hospitals or residents at State Veteran’s Homes, and have little contact with friends or family. Holiday Mail for Heroes connects these veterans with individuals who have taken the time and care to personalize a holiday card and send it to them in thanks for their sacrifice.

And, while a holiday card may seem a small triviality, they are anything but trivial to those who receive them. “This program continues to hold great value,” says Mike. “The veterans, wounded warriors, and military families who receive these tokens appreciate them in ways that might surprise many of us. For some of these people, one of these cards can really make their day.”

If you plan to participate in this program, please review program guidelines for creating and sending your cards. To ensure card delivery in time for the holidays, the local Red Cross office must receive cards no later than Friday, December 5.

“Welcome to the Red Cross, Mr. Klingel”

During World War II, Jim Klingel from West St. Paul, Minnesota, wanted to wear a uniform and serve his country. A perforated eardrum made him ineligible for the armed forces. His wife Henny was a Red Cross volunteer who learned about paid jobs working with soldiers and their families. Accepting a Red Cross job like this would mean leaving behind his family for a while and living “for the duration” nearly anywhere in the United States and perhaps overseas. After applications, physical exams, and interviews,  the Red Cross offered Jim an Assistant Field Director position, which he accepted. Below we share excerpts from Jim’s correspondence to his wife Henny and their friends. The letters help tell the story of how Jim became a Red Cross Man in uniform when he was needed most.

West St. Paul, Minnesota, July 5, 1943

A week ago today, Henny and I boarded a train for St. Louis, and last Friday morning we returned. It was a rather sudden trip, and resulted from negotiations commenced last January. The result was that, after a couple of interviews, etc., a chap shook hands with me and said “Welcome to the Red Cross, Mr. Klingel”. I’m to report to Washington D.C. August 9th to start my training and schooling, then to some Camp under supervision of several superiors for further training. After three months, I should be a “graduate” Assistant Field Director, and will then be assigned to some Army Camp.

The work itself, with the Red Cross, sounds very interesting. The Field Director’s job, as I presume many of you know, is to alleviate any troubled circumstances between someone in the service and his home as I understand it. When finally assigned, I will be stationed on an Army Post, and wear a regulation uniform. One thing that I understand will be appreciated is that I don’t have to find my own living quarters in Washington while attending school there. I understand that the Red Cross has sufficient living quarters for their classes there and that as one class completes its course and moves out, the next one moves in. I believe I’ll be in Washington only 15 days or so, but that should be long enough to take in some of the sights. After the three months are up, if possible, Henny and I hope to make some kind of arrangements so that we can live together near whatever Camp I’m at. There’s no way of being sure now, but my hunch is that I will be stationed in Texas someplace. That will be sometime in November.

All of this means that we are about to join the many others who are jumping around from place to place, with ever-changing addresses, living from suit-case, duffle-bag or what-have-you. It also means that, except for perhaps one more issue, the publication of the Kronical will become more irregular and infrequent than ever until the early part of November at least.


Washington D.C., August 12, 1943
Dearest Honey pie —

I’m down in the lounge after supper as janitor, caretaker, officer of the day or what have you. Primary duty is to take care of Spec. Delivery letters, telegrams, or telephone calls. (I’m hearing a radio program too that is talking about white gabardine pants.)

Seems to me I started to tell you about “My Day” a while back. I started to tell you about our classes, then thought instead I’d briefly outline all classes we have had so far. I think you’re familiar with nearly all of the stuff we have had thus far, but maybe not as thoroughly. First class was history from Henry Dunant’s the Battle of Solferino to 1929 and the Geneva Conference on Prisoners of War. One of our speakers was Vice Chairman of Domestic Service. The 7 primary Domestic Services are:
Disaster Relief & Civ. War Aid
Serv. to Armed Forces
First Aid
Blood Donors
Volunteer Spec. Serv. Corps.
(I’m trying to write this without resort to my notes, but I’ve had to peek a couple of times).

We had a long lecture on #2 – S.A.F. That’s the group I’m under – S.A.F. (Serv. Armed Forces). That’s quite a big service these days. We have also had some small talks on Field Director work. The fellow that gave the talk said there had been considerable confusion by many of the enlisted men insofar as Red Cross Men in uniform. He said that one fellow sat beside him on a train and finally asked him what the A.R.C. pin on his collar stood for. When he was told it meant Am. Red Cross he said “Oh, you’re one of those fellows that follows troops and gives them blood?” –

All next week we spend on Job Instruction (and I’m not fooling, it sounds tough) and Military Post Information and how we should dress, act, etc. One of the fellows was enumerating some of the problems that come up, like a guy that walks in and says “I think my wife is running around with another guy, and what can I do?” or “I’m not married but I just learned that my girl is going to have a baby so can it be arranged that we get married?” I guess there’s practically every kind of situation you can imagine.

They related one story of one soldier in the hospital – a very simple case, — who wasn’t getting better at all and wasn’t eating. The medical officer finally asked that a Red Cross worker take the case – they gave it to a Hosp. worker who finally found out that he had a letter 3 weeks before from his wife who said that the baby was sick & he had not heard from her since. He was sure the baby had died and that his wife didn’t want to write him about it while he was in the Hosp. The R.C. worker checked thru the Home Chapter & found the baby well and that the wife’s mail hadn’t been forwarded to the hospital. The fellow was out of the Hosp. in less than 1 week. There are stories like that one after the other that bring a lump to your throat and tears to your eyes.

Gosh, I’ve been writing so long I’m getting writer’s cramp.

Washington , D.C., August 19, 1943, Wed. Nite — 1:30 A.M.
Dearest Sweetheart —

You can see by the time & hour that this is being written, that it is going to be short & – I hope – sweet. We came home from down-town about 11:30 and I have since packed my box to send home. That took me a long time & I found I forgot one sock. I tucked that in along the side – you will see it if it stays in.

Today I received the letter you mailed yesterday noon – which is why I like air mail. I also received your Sunday Nite letter, so I’m not expecting one tomorrow, but I’m happy anyway. …next week we will be 400 miles apart!! — My whole winter uniform is in the box I’m sending home. Save my ration book (I mean use it but don’t turn it in) as I’m still a civilian. A.R.C. staff men in Military & Naval Welfare wear Army Officers Uniforms for the respect they will then command from the men. I have found out that the major part of our job will be practically social case-work, primarily in psychology. Some job, and I’m not fooling!

All my love — & you’re Wonderfuller
Nite Rascalian –

I’m at the breakfast table with a few minutes before classes this morning (Thurs.). Yesterday I bought some sox, & two new shirts while I was down town – and also bought a pair of shower slippers – you know, those big soles with a strap over the top.

 — Bustle Bustle Bustle —

Now I’m in class awaiting “last bell” – Think I’ve about covered everything. The weather is wonderful. All the southern boys are shivering – & I guess you would be cold at night too. It’s swell with me. We should get our reservations this afternoon which will get us to Camp Grant by Sunday night. We report for duty (?) at 8:00 A.M. Monday morning.

Tonight, or rather this afternoon at 4:00 we have uniform inspection to be sure we are all dressing correctly, then I have to dash down-down for my pants & reservations. The gang is talking about a boat-ride on the Potomac for tonight. It sure seems funny to think that day after tomorrow we are all going to be split up. Four of us are going to Camp Grant which will keep us together for two weeks more. Chick is one of them. We are looking forward to a good time on the train. There’s the bell darling – Bye for now –

Much Love — Jim

American Red Cross, Camp & Hospital Service Council, Camp Grant, Illinois, August 26, 1943 quote – There’s no time like the present – unquote.
Dear Bee & Jad –

“There’s no time like the present” means in this case that it is 9:30 A.M. and I’m one of five “trainees” here at Am. Red Cross Hdqts. for practical training. One of the fellows permanently stationed here (there are 6) is in charge of our instruction, and as he is very busy at the moment, I have a little free time. The girl just handed me your card, forwarded from Am. Univ. – Wash. D.C….

Here’s the “teacher” again —

Back again in 10 minutes – that was short.

My health is fine, and I’m holding out o.k. They sure gave us a heavy short course our 2 weeks in Washington. We are to spend 2 weeks here for what is called “continuation training”. Here we are actually in the Field Director’s office, on the Post, observing what actually goes on and “getting the hang” of the business. It is certainly fascinating work. The biggest job, or at least the most common case, is work on emergency furloughs. There are several of them every day. Last night we rushed a fellow to the train. His house is in N.Y. State and about 4:30 we had a wire from the Chapter in his home town that his mother was critically ill and was dying. This information is immediately turned over to the Military who decide whether a furlough should be granted. If a furlough is o.ked, and the soldier hasn’t enough money to get home & back we loan it to him, then help him to get home the quickest possible way. Some of the cases are pathetic. One chap left yesterday in a hurry. His wife had a baby @ 1:00 A.M. that died after three hours. He had to rush home to take care of the funeral etc. as his wife was alone and all broken up. Another’s father had been killed in an auto accident. Another was trying to get home somehow to marry the girl before the 9 months were gone. Some walk in and want to know what to do – They were married here last week and have a wife & family back home. One really runs the gamut of human relations here all right.

Where we go from here is still a mystery. It won’t be Florida though since we are in the mid-western area, and Fla. is in Eastern. It will probably be Texas, Okla., or some such southern state since there aren’t many Camps up north comparatively.

Here we go again with class. Please give my regards to Shirley & I hope she has a good time.


Camp Grant, Illinois, September 2, 1943
Darling honey-bun:

By now, how is the sore-throat? Mine is all gone, and has been for a couple of days. Gosh, this ribbon is sure dark isn’t it. It is so darn dark I can hardly see it. I’m punching this machine about as hard as I can too. As yet we have had no word as to when we go where we go. I hope it comes by tomorrow, although we thought sure we would hear today. So it goes in this game I guess – it is as Paul says “You shouldn’t allow yourself to be surprised by anything in the Red Cross—they are apt to wire you Monday and say ‘You left Saturday for so-and-so Texas’”

Everything goes well – tonight Chick, & I, being on O.D., and being too late getting done with things this afternoon, didn’t go into town for supper, but stayed out here at Camp and ate at the Officers Mess – the first time we tried it for an evening meal. We had soup (that always precedes lunch and supper to everyone even before you order) then roast prime ribs of beef with lyonnaise (fried to me) potatoes, salad, fresh asparagus, cake and iced tea. There was no choice of menu for supper, but there is at noon and at breakfast I guess.

Oh gosh, tomorrow is Friday, and we get three shots. One typhus, one typhoid, and one small pox. I’ll be glad when they are all over, but I guess it will take about three months or so, since there are three of each except small-pox, and they are spaced three weeks apart. We have only had one typhus so far. It will be just my luck to have the darned shots take good effect tomorrow, and then have to lug that heavy suitcase all around Saturday en route to I don’t know where yet.

Don’t you think my winter uniforms look swell? By the way, here is another little “house-wifey” job you can do if you want to. I need, or will need, some arm shields in the coat so I won’t ruin it the first month. If you can get some and put them in it would be fine. I sure think the little “JKs” are swell – and it was an easy matter to send my uniform to be washed yesterday with all the other guys, because I knew I would know mine right away.

Well Chick-a-dee, it is getting later, and I’m fast running out of chatter. Now that you have been down here there’s not so much to write about so far as my surroundings are concerned. I think about how you left here in such a hurry Tuesday afternoon, and sometimes I’m glad it was a hurry and sometimes I’m sorry. In a way it was fine to have you leave in a “whish” of laughs and excitement – but in another it was too darned fast – I hardly got a chance to say good-bye, much less tell you to give my love to everyone home, to say hello to John and Marian, etc. etc. etc. Nite for now darling –

All my love,

Tomah, Wisconsin, September, 7 1943
Dearest Chickadee –

Well, I’m in Tomah finally. At the moment it is about 15 minutes to eight and I’m sitting in the Red Cross office. I don’t know whether I’m supposed to be here or not, cause I just walked in and no one is here after 5:00 o’clock in the evening. The Red Cross office is located in the Station Hospital at the moment. It is in the process of being moved to new quarters (probably by Thursday) in a chapel on the Post. The Camp is quite small, and I am the only Assistant – there is Sauerman, the head-man, one stenographer, and Chickadum.

The job itself sounds awfully big now, darling. Mr. Sauerman has been handling it all alone, and the Post here has grown considerably, as well as the other three stations he handles, so it is more than one guy can do. That’s why it has been so hard for him to be here – etc. etc. I think what will happen, is that he will turn over the work here to me and he will travel to the other camps regularly. That means that probably before the month is out I will be handling this camp practically alone. Gosh, I sure feel like a Rookie – and know that I have an awful lot to learning to do for the next two weeks. For that reason, I’m not going to mind living here on the Post for a while at least.

By the way, my Field Jacket keeps me plenty warm, so there need be no worry on that score. I’m trying to rattle off so fast that I’m sure getting plenty of mistakes. I want to write to Tom & Nat, Milly, and Chick yet tonight though, if I can, and I know I can’t stay here hammering too long, cause it will keep the patients awake.

So, bye now, honey-darling. You’re awfully sweet – did you know that? Thank you, and give my thanks again to everyone else for the fine birthday. Let me know how Janie-Ann likes Humboldt. Good-luck to Mom and the Flower-show.


After completing his assistant field director probation, Jim Klingel was transferred to Romulus, Michigan, where his wife Henny joined him. He later was promoted to A.R.C. Field Director and assigned to posts in Kansas and Oklahoma. Jim served with the Red Cross until late 1945 when he resigned and returned to Minnesota where he could be close to his family and mother, who was ill. Recently, Jim’s children gave his Army Regulation uniform and the letters he wrote during his service to the Red Cross. Today, Service to the Armed Forces continues to be essential Red Cross work around the world.

Edited story and composed photos by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region

%d bloggers like this: