As part of our Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) activities, we’re proud to celebrate national Military Appreciation Month with service members, veterans and their families.
The American Red Cross has a long history of serving the U.S. military going back to the Civil War. Our founder, Clara Barton, also known as, “the angel of the battlefield,” participated in 16 separate battles during the war.
This proud service to our Armed Forces continues today in our region:
In April 2022, the Minnesota and Dakotas Region assisted with 56 emergency communications requests. The Red Cross is federally chartered to handle all emergency communications to our active-duty forces.
In April, we participated in deployment events where 54 military members and their families received much needed resiliency training. The Red Cross provides much needed resiliency training to deploying units and their families.
We also follow up with family members of deployed service members. In April, for example, 240 critical community service cases were completed.
These services happen only with the outstanding efforts of our SAF volunteers. We’d like to share our profound thanks to them for their generosity of time, kindness and expertise. You’re the best!
This May, Red Cross youth volunteers delivered messages of gratitude and Girl Scout cookies at Veterans Affairs clinics in Hibbing, MN and Superior, WI and to VA homes in Silver Bay and Fergus Falls. Photo credit: Dan Williams/American Red Cross
Military veterans have a critical role in their local communities, often times continuing to serve in both small and large ways.
Take the example of David Schoeneck who uses skills he learned early in his career to continue serving through the American Red Cross. In September 1964, while a freshman in college, he began working as a reporter and photographer for his hometown newspaper – the New Ulm Daily Journal in southern Minnesota. Four and a half years later, after graduating from Minnesota State University in Mankato, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
He served a tour of duty with the 4th Infantry Division in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam, first as a combat correspondent and later as editor of the Division’s weekly newspaper, The Ivy Leaf. He returned to the U.S. and was discharged in July 1970.
Back in civilian life, Schoeneck worked in public relations and communications as a manager and director for a number of Minnesota-based corporations. Upon retirement in 2002, he was approached by a long-time friend, David Therkelsen, who was serving as executive director of the Red Cross St. Paul Chapter.
“David explained to me that the Red Cross had very important public affairs activity during disasters, as well as on-going public affairs needs,” Schoeneck said. “I had been actively involved in community affairs as part of my work, and working with the Red Cross very much appealed to me.”
Since joining the Red Cross 20 years ago, Schoeneck has been involved in local public affairs responses, supporting countless home and apartment fires, floods in various parts of Minnesota, four tornado responses in the state and six national deployments. He has worked as a Red Cross public affairs service associate, supervisor or manager for Hurricanes Irene, Sandy, Mathew, Harvey and Florence, as well as during the eastern Washington state wildfires.
In 2015, Schoeneck was invited to join the Red Cross National Advanced Public Affairs Team (APAT). More recently, he was selected to join the Red Cross North Central Division’s Disaster Resource Management Team (DRMT), which provides qualified and experienced management teams to supplement local resources when larger scale disasters occur.
“The fundamental principles of the Red Cross – humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality – appealed to me,” Schoeneck said. “It fit very well with my belief that everyone needs to give back to the community and serve others. Working with the Red Cross also allows me to use the skills I have developed over many years in a very positive way.”
“The Red Cross is an amazing organization. It aids victims of home fires and other smaller disasters on a local level, but also comes together when needed to answer the call for large scale disasters such as Hurricanes Florence and Michael,” Schoeneck noted. “In addition to disaster services, the Red Cross has a long-standing role in providing service to our Armed Forces.”
“I have met and been privileged to work with wonderful people from all over the United States, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Canada who, as part of the Red Cross, respond to disasters. Their spirit of service and dedication is very inspiring. Many of the Red Cross volunteers I have met are also veterans who continue to serve their country and community, long after their active military duty ended.”
A version of this story originally was published on the Red Cross Chat. To learn more about Red Cross volunteer opportunities, click here.
Red Cross is asking home stitchers to make face coverings for service members, veterans and their family members
Continuing Legacy For more than 130 years, the American Red Cross has provided comfort and care to service members, veterans and their families. One long-standing activity is the Red Cross program to knit socks and helmet liners, sew coverings for casts, and crochet or quilt lap blankets for injured wheelchair patients.
We’re continuing this legacy during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis because an ongoing need exists for face coverings that people can wear on military installations, at veteran’s homes and hospitals, and other areas where they are required. To help, our volunteer workforce is joining others to help sew and distribute these coverings.
Take for example Judi, a long-time Red Cross volunteer in Minot, North Dakota. She made 170 (wow!) of the 262 we’ve given so far to the VA in Fargo, ND. “I’ve always felt that everyone should take care of our veterans, in any way that we can. It’s a small gesture, but one that’s greatly needed. It’s a privilege to be able to help,” says Judi, who’s also a military veteran.
Get Sewing If you’re interested in making face coverings to support service members, veterans and/or their families, please read this article from the CDC for sewing and design details. We’re particularly looking for face coverings made with gender neutral, masculine, or patriotic fabrics and sewn at home by hand or machine. We especially recommend that they’re sturdy enough for industrial laundry machines.
JoAnn, pictured above at her sewing machine, made face coverings for the VA in Hot Springs, South Dakota. For her, taking up the sewing project was a way to come together during a time when lives have changed so much and so quickly. “I learned about the need for face masks and just one mask turned into forty! The challenge encouraged me to keep reaching out. Thank you for the privilege and honor to assist the Red Cross and the VA.”
Stitching Tips • Consider expanding the sizes seen in the link above to accommodate a wider variety of face types/sizes (man vs. woman, facial hair, etc.). • Using a softer material for the interior part of the covering can make it more comfortable to wear. • Launder and dry material prior to making face coverings to reduce the chance of shrinkage. • Tie closures provide greatest size and comfort accommodation as well as making them sturdier for multiple washings in heavy-duty laundry machines.
Final Step When your home stitched face coverings are ready, reach out to our Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) team at firstname.lastname@example.org for mailing or drop-off information. Working with our volunteers, our team will verify the need for face coverings with service member partners and make arrangements for delivering your home-sewn coverings to where they’re needed most across our Minnesota and Dakotas region.
Thank you so much for helping our military heroes!
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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 email@example.com.
Post by Caroline Nelson for the American Red Cross
“It’s a really good way to reach out and show our appreciation to people that we may never get the chance to tell in person. It took less than an hour of our time,” says Jalyn Elmes, captain of the University of Minnesota Duluth, Women’s Hockey team. Elmes has participated in Holidays for Heroes in the 2018 and 2019 holiday seasons.
Director of the local Red Cross, Dan Williams, has helped facilitate Holidays for Heroes for a number of years. Dan says his favorite part about this proactive effort is reminding service members and veterans that they’re cared about. “We’re not waiting for service members to raise their hand and say ‘I wish the community would show me how much they appreciate us.’”
During the past four years, UMD student-athlete teams have signed around 4,000 cards. Football, women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s hockey have joined these efforts. The signed cards will be distributed to local military service units and veterans clinics and homes.
Other upcoming activities include blood drives and humanitarian law training through our Red Cross Youth outreach. And getting involved Holidays for Heroes s as easy as bringing holiday cards to your local Red Cross chapter. We’ll do the rest!
Story by Caroline Nelson and photos by Dan Williams, American Red Cross Minnesota Region. Click here to learn more about Red Cross services for military families and veterans.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org — 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.
To mark this occasion, American Red Cross
President and CEO Gail McGovern sent Marian a letter expressing
gratitude and best wishes for reaching this milestone.We’d like to share our appreciation as well.
And say Happy Birthday Marian! You’re a remarkable woman.
Thank you for your service to the American Red Cross !
Story by Kathleen Todd for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region
On Veterans Day, the American Red Cross honors people like Sharon Azan.
In 1985, Sharon Azan was stationed in Naples, Italy, with the United States Air Force when she got a call from the American Red Cross. Five thousand miles away, Azan’s uncle had passed away, and her family contacted the Red Cross to relay an urgent message about his death.
It was that one phone call—all those years ago—that recently prompted Azan to connect with the American Red Cross in Minnesota. Now, she’s training to become a Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) volunteer.
“I figured this was a good time for me to help someone else,” Azan says. “I am so appreciative of what the Red Cross does and what it stands for.”
For more than 100 years, the Red Cross has been hard at work supporting the men and women of the American armed forces. Today, no matter where American armed service members are in the world, the Red Cross is dedicated to delivering emergency communications messages through the American Red Cross Hero Care Network, which is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The Red Cross provides around 370,000 services each year to active-duty military, veterans, and their families—including more than 3,000 in Minnesota last fiscal year. In addition to emergency communications, the Minnesota Red Cross provides courses and workshops to help military families cope with life after deployments.
The Red Cross invites you to say “thanks” by signing and sending cards through Holidays for Heroes to U.S. military and veterans. Click here for information, including where cards to send cards, the program deadline, and other important guidelines for the cards.
During this time of year, Red Cross volunteers in Northern Minnesota are particularly busy supporting Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MAC-V) ‘Stand Down’ events, collecting and distributing Holiday Mail for Heroes cards for local military members and veterans, and participating in Veterans Day events. These activities help fulfill our Service to the Armed Forces, which is a core service that the American Red Cross delivers. And, is always an honor to provide.
“It felt like a scoop of ice cream”
At the Veteran Stand Down event in August in Virginia, MN, one of our newest volunteers, Wendy Frederickson, and an experienced disaster relief volunteer, Lisa Kvas, participated in the event as their first time delivering Red Cross services to military members and veterans. Wendy shared that the best part of participating in Red Cross work with veterans was the privilege to meet a Vietnam War veteran named Richard Krisean, who had never attended a veteran-focused event since returning from Vietnam.
Richard was a Radar Intercept Officer with the Marines in Vietnam and flew in 192 combat missions. Wendy shared that Richard’s experience in returning from Vietnam was not positive at all and that Richard was shocked at the depth and breadth of the services that were made available at the event for veterans.
Richard shared his point of view: “What I took from going to the Veteran’s Stand Down in Virginia was the openness of all of the organizations, but the Red Cross particularly was so open and helped Veterans break down the barriers of sharing their experiences – in my case in Vietnam. The Red Cross volunteers Wendy and Lisa were just so open and wanted to know your story, and there were no walls and no barriers, they were just there to help the veterans. That made me a little emotional, which I usually don’t get in front of other people.”
When Richard was asked about his experience with the Red Cross while he was serving in Vietnam, Richard said: “When I was on a medivac flight back from Vietnam, it was so nice to see people like that. They really cared about me when they were giving me coffee or donuts, and after being shot at in Vietnam and everything else that was going on – it felt like a big scoop of ice cream, that is how I felt.”
Wendy said that when she was sitting down with Richard for lunch that she told him that “Something is telling my heart that you are the reason I am here today.” Richard said that he felt the same way. Lisa Kvas added, “Meeting Richard really struck home to me as to how proud that we really are of all of them. Showing that, and sharing that, was really much more important than the blanket that we handed them. That is what has the impact.” When Lisa was asked about what it might take for a volunteer to be able to make a difference with our Service to the Armed Forces, she shared that it is very similar to the qualities that make a good disaster volunteer – compassion and hope.
This year, we had the added resource of new blankets to give out to the veterans attending the Stand Down events in Virginia, Duluth, Grand Rapids, and Bemidji though a partnership with the Duluth Fire Department. Through a national charity, we were able to give out 1,000 blankets to both veterans at these events, as well as to victims of disaster across our Northern Minnesota Chapter area.
80% of success is ‘showing up’
Our take is that that 80% of success is ‘showing up.’ This means two of the most important pieces of the work we do with our military service members and veterans at the Northern Minnesota Chapter are 1) showing up; and 2) not waiting for our military heroes to raise a hand for help. By making a commitment to being at events that support our military units and veterans, it gives us the opportunity to make a difference when it is needed.
Though programs like Holiday Mail for Heroes, we distribute bundles of holiday cards written by local community members to all of the members of the units we support locally; as well as to all of the veterans living in nursing homes that we supply cards to. The reason is that on any given day it is impossible to identify exactly who would benefit from getting the bundle of cards thanking them for their service and wishing them a great holiday season. By giving the cards to everyone, we are letting our local communities share their appreciation of the commitment our veterans have made. This year we expect to distribute over 16,000 cards.
On Veterans Day, we will participate in four events happening in the Duluth area. We will support the Veterans Day parade in downtown Duluth by providing donuts, coffee and hot chocolate for our veterans who will be marching in the parade. We also have card-signing events going on at Bent Paddle Brewing and the College of St. Scholastica hockey game. Lastly, at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) hockey game, the UMD Greek Life Club will be supporting a card-signing table, and the UMD Athletic Department will recognize our Northern Minnesota Chapter Board Chair (and retired Colonel from the MN Air National Guard) Penny Dieryck, as well as Richard Krsiean, the veteran we met in Virginia, for their service to our nation.
If you are a veteran, please accept our sincerest thanks for your service to our country. If you would like to get involved with the work of Red Cross Service to Armed Forces, reach out to your local Red Cross chapter to find out how you can help.