In 1999, the U.S. Congress deemed every May “Military Appreciation Month.” Like you, my wife, Gena, and I are big supporters of our U.S. servicemen, servicewomen and their families. This week marks some special anniversaries for military family support, which also serve as reminders of how we can support them.
On May 19, 1864, then-President Abraham Lincoln wrote anti-slavery congressional leader and Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. Lincoln proposed that widows and children of soldiers should be given equal treatment regardless of race.
History.com explained the outcome:
Lincoln shared many of his friend Sumner’s views on civil rights. In an unprecedented move, Lincoln allowed a Black woman, the widow of a Black Civil War soldier, Major Lionel F. Booth, to meet with him at the White House. Mary Booth’s husband had been killed at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, in April 1864 by a Confederate sniper. The massacre of African American Union forces that followed the subsequent fall of the fort was considered one of the most brutal of the Civil War. After speaking with Mrs. Booth privately, Lincoln sat down and wrote a letter of introduction for Mrs. Booth to carry to Sumner and asked him to hear what she had to say about the hardships imposed on families of black soldiers killed or maimed in battle.
As a result of his meeting with Mrs. Booth, Senator Sumner influenced congressional members in 1866 to introduce a resolution (H.R. 406, Section 13) to provide for the equal treatment of the dependents of Black soldiers. According to the Library of Congress, though, there are no records that Mrs. Booth ever applied for or received a widow’s pension after the bill’s passage.
Lincoln’s and Mrs. Booth’s advocacy reminds me of the origin of another group that had its start fighting for military family support: the American Red Cross (ARC).
The ARC has been healing and rebuilding its foundation after facing over a decade of organization integrity challenges from various blunders, bad decisions and mishaps in disaster recovery. Nevertheless, those things don’t take away from the fact it is involved in more than 70,000 disasters annually and remains the largest blood collection organization in the United States, supplying approximately 40% of blood products. Even more, bad leadership choices don’t minimize the hearts and sacrifices given each year by roughly half a million volunteers and its 35,000 employees.
Its founding leader was chief among the models and heroes of the Civil War. Clara Barton so bravely provided nursing care and supplies to soldiers that she earned her nickname, Angel of the Battlefield. When the war ended, with permission from President Lincoln, she opened the Office of Missing Soldiers, reconnecting more than 20,000 soldiers with their families. After a trip abroad introducing her to the ARC’s European counterpart, Clara set her sites on establishing the domestic charitable organization that has become known by its simple emblem of a red cross.
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As the ARC’s official website explains, “Since our founding by Clara Barton on May 21, 1881, the American Red Cross has been dedicated to serving people in need. We received our first congressional charter in 1900 and to this day we are tasked by the federal government with providing services to members of the American armed forces and their families as well as providing disaster relief in the United States and around the world. In 2021, the Red Cross celebrated 140 years of compassionate service. Learn how we commemorated our anniversary.”
Many people know the ARC for its disaster relief. But I want to elevate its support of our military personnel and their families, and offer you, my readers, a reminder how you can support them all through your time, talents and, if satisfied with ARC’s renewed ethic standards, treasures, too. Here are ways you and your family can put “Thank you for your service” into action this month and throughout the year.
The New York chapter of the American Red Cross noted in its May memorandum: “Military families experience emergencies, just like civilian families, except oftentimes they go through a crisis separated from a family member who is deployed,” said Lisa Taibi, regional program manager, Service to the Armed Forces Giving Program and international services. “Handling an emergency without your support system can be challenging, but Red Cross volunteers make a huge difference in the lives of our military families through emergency relief.”
As the ARC detailed, these are a few great calls to action you can engage in despite where you live in the nation:
- Answer Emergency Calls with Hero Care Network
The Red Cross Hero Care Network is a free 24/7 support system for military and veteran families when they are facing life-changing events like the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a medical emergency or even a financial crisis. The Red Cross is the only organization to provide this emergency messaging service to separated and active-duty military families. Volunteers help serve members each day by answering calls, delivering messages and opening cases to support connections to additional resources.
Red Cross Armed Forces volunteers have continued to support VA Hospitals through numerous initiatives including garden, music and art therapy programs, clothing for inpatient and homeless veterans, full-size hygiene items, as well as various supplies for homeless veterans’ programs.
√ Medical volunteers: Licensed doctors or nurses help support hospital staff in a variety of ways, including seeing patients in-person or through telehealth, nurse charting, answering calls and more.
√ Non-medical volunteers: Non-medical volunteers help with a variety of programs, including visiting patients; manning coffee, snack and book carts; providing art and garden therapy classes; hosting animal visitation programs; and distributing care and comfort items to patients and medical staff.
The Red Cross conducts mental wellness courses, called resiliency workshops, for military and veteran families.
√ Programs are free, confidential and offered in-person or online by licensed mental health professionals.
√ The programs help service members, veterans and their families build resilience, manage stress and address trauma.
√ Mental health professionals serve as volunteer leaders of resiliency workshops for military and veteran communities.
- Join a Long Legacy of Red Cross Military Support via the Armed Forces Giving Program
Always doublecheck the integrity process and spending of what you give before you do.
The goal of the Armed Forces Giving Program is to maintain a global network of thousands of volunteers and employees to support the military 365 days a year through emergency communications, training, community resources and support to ill and injured service members and veterans. Contributions from partners such as Lockheed Martin Corp., Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co., USAA and Wilf Family Foundations ensure the Red Cross is there 24/7 to provide comfort and care to members of the military, veterans and their families as they prepare for, cope with and respond to the challenges of military service.
To learn more about programs that support military personnel, families and communities, visit www.redcross.org/saf. For more info about volunteering, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact your local Red Cross chapter to learn about open availabilities via redcross.org or on Twitter at @RedCross.
Most of all, say a prayer today and every day for the safety and strength of U.S. service members and their families. God bless you all, and God bless America!
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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.