Red Cross volunteer who provided service in Vietnam War among those to be honored this weekend in nation’s capital

By Sue Wilson Cordle, Summit, Portage, Medina Chapter board of directors member. Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Jackie Otte is the Regional Volunteer Lead for the American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Services team and has been a Red Cross volunteer for the last 26 years. That in itself is significant; but it is just one aspect of her commitment to the organization.

1883jo Jackie Christmas Card 1968 copyIn the late 1960s, Jackie served with the Red Cross in Vietnam. She explained, “There were two national Red Cross programs serving the military during the Vietnam War: SMI, Service to Military Installations, and SMH, Service to Military Hospitals.”  Jackie served in both areas doing casework and recreational therapy.

“When I received orders for Vietnam in the spring of 1968, the patients I worked with told me not to go— that I would forever be affected. However, I was an idealist and did not turn down orders.”  She was assigned to the 2nd Surgical Hospital in Chu Lai, about 50 miles south of DaNang.

This weekend, her contribution for those years and many more will be recognized at the American Red Cross Headquarters in Washington, D.C., with a Legacy Award. This award recognizes Red Cross staff and volunteers, like Jackie, who have served side-by-side with members of the United States armed forces in combat zones.

After her service in Vietnam, Jackie was stationed in Germany. “I am the daughter of a veteran and my service in military hospitals has given me a life-long desire to give back to our military personnel and veterans. I am still working part-time as a social worker in a hospice program,” she said. Jackie is very involved with We Honor Veterans, the national hospice organization that recognizes vets at end-of–life and trains staff on end-of-life issues faced by combat vets.

Jackie, who is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, comes from a Red Cross family. Her father, a World War II vet, served the Red Cross as a board member at both the local and national levels until his death. Jackie learned while planning his funeral that her dad used to read her letters from Vietnam at Red Cross board meetings. While in Washington this weekend for Veterans Day-related events, she’ll stay with her nephew, who is a former Red Cross employee, and his wife, a current Red Cross employee. Red Cross roots spread wide in her family.JackieOtte2

Jackie also plans to visit the Vietnam Veterans Women’s Memorial on its 25th anniversary. “I was the Ohio volunteer coordinator for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial,” explained Jackie. “I made a lot of appearances to educate others about the memorial and raise funds to build it.”

Jackie said she is looking forward to seeing old friends, both from the Red Cross and military. “It has been 50 years since we were there and we aren’t getting any younger. Many may not be with us in the near future.”

The Red Cross legacy of service to members of the military began when founder Clara Barton provided comfort on the battlefields during the Civil War. Since then, American Red Cross staff and volunteers have served in every major military combat or conflict operation around the world. They are among a select group who have proudly worn the Red Cross emblem to provide care and comfort to members of the United States armed forces, their families and our veterans. And Jackie is a member of that select group who will be honored this weekend.

In Jackie’s words, “These ceremonies are always moving for all involved. It will be an honor to take part in a ceremony like this for recognition for combat Red Cross staff.”

Congratulations, Jackie, and thank you for your years of dedication and service to the Red Cross, our military and our veterans.

You are a true hero.

Clara Barton Answers the Call to America’s Largest Flood

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Just before 3 p.m. on May 31, 1889, 14 miles west of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a dam broke, releasing 20-million tons of water into the Conemaugh Valley. In this narrow valley, the water reached 60 feet high as it barreled toward the city at speeds of 40 m.p.h.

By the time it struck Johnstown, the 4 billion gallons of water brought with it everything in its path. Four square miles of downtown were completely obliterated by the crushing flood waters. By the time it was over, 30 acres of human bodies, homes and debris were piled 70 feet high against the stone-arched railroad bridge at the far edge of town. The pressure and amount of the water was later compared to all the water flowing over Niagara Falls in 36 minutes.

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Photo credit: Johnstown Flood Museum

Between the force of the water and the ensuing explosions and fires that broke out, more than 2,200 people died, 1,600 homes were destroyed, and $17 million worth of damage was done (close to $500 million in today’s valuation.)

From War Relief to Disaster ReliefClara B

In Washington, D.C., Clara Barton got word of the event.  Prior to this time, she had provided relief to the Civil War soldiers, but was lobbying for the American Red Cross to provided relief for peacetime disasters as well.  Five days after the flood, Clara and five Red Cross workers arrived in Johnstown. Within days, she had assembled a team of 50 doctors, nurses and relief workers.Johnstown Flood

Setting up headquarters in the city, she immediately began organizing donations that began arriving from all around the world.  Food, clean water and supplies were passed out immediately to survivors as they tried to create shelters however they could.

 

“Red Cross Hotels” were opened to provide shelter for those left homeless before the winter weather set in.  The first “hotel” was so successful, five more were quickly erected.

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Photo credit: U. S. National Park Service

They also began building 3,000 “Oklahoma houses,” a type of prefabricated home, to aid the city in rebuilding. Furniture donations and domestic items were then organized and distributed to outfit these homes.

Clara didn’t leave the city for five straight months, only returning to Washington on October 24, 1889.  The city presented her with a number of gifts to show their lasting gratitude.  One editorialist wrote, “Too much cannot be said in praise of this lady…To her timely and heroic work, more than that of any other human being, are the people of the Conemaugh Valley indebted.”

Today if you visit the Johnstown Flood Museum, you’ll see a section devoted exclusively to Clara Barton and the Red Cross’ success in helping restore the town, along with some of her original papers and one of the first Red Cross blankets to be distributed.

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Photo credit: Doug Bardwell/American Red Cross

Based largely on the success of her mission to aid the Johnstown residents, the American Red Cross received its Congressional Charter 10 years later, in 1900.

Today you can continue the legacy of Barton and volunteer to help with the next big disaster to strike this country.  Volunteer today at https://neoredcross.org/volunteer/.

Access the ProVia Employee Red Cross Volunteer Application here.  

Merry Christmas – and Happy Birthday Clara

By Sue Wilson Cordle, Volunteer Leader and Board Member

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Today is a very special holiday. Yes, of course it’s Christmas, but it’s also Clara Barton’s birthday. Who is Clara Barton? One the most honored women in American history. Barton was a pioneering nurse during the Civil War who risked her life to bring supplies and support to soldiers in the field. Her understanding of the ways she could provide help to people in distress guided her throughout her life. By the force of her personal example, she opened paths to the new field of volunteer service. Her intense devotion to serving others resulted in enough achievements to fill several ordinary lifetimes.*images (1)

2017 may very well go down in history as the year women found their voice–and began to speak up for injustices that have been going on for a very long time. Sometimes, it takes a while to find your voice. To find your mission. And if this year taught me anything, it taught me that it’s never too late. Clara Barton is the ultimate example of that. She was a feminist before there was even a word for it. And when most people her age, and at her time were settling into old age, she was busy founding the Red Cross. Yep, when Clara founded the Red Cross in 1881 she was 60 years old!

On this Christmas Day, when so many of us are enjoying the company of family and friends, it is good to reflect on the many who know no holiday–nurses, caregivers and the many volunteers, specifically those for the Red Cross, who every day help those who have been affected by the many natural disasters this year; the hurricanes, wildfires, home fires and other tragedies.

Need a last minute Christmas gift? Donate to Red Cross today. Merry Christmas- and Happy Birthday Clara!m15840200_South_Florida_Clara_Barton_Society_A_Spot_514x260

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