By Mike Parks, CEO, American Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region, Rear Admiral, U. S. Coast Guard (Ret.)
American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio Family Members: Yes…it’s Veterans Day and we have Red Cross members representing us in parades and festivities around the country in honor of those who have served our grateful nation. For those of you who are veterans—thank you for your faithful service. For those of you who have family members who are or were veterans, thank you for supporting them. As every person who has worn the uniform of this country will attest—support from family and friends was crucial to their success. And thank you to all the Red Crossers who support our Servicemen and Servicewomen every day of the year.
Here is a blog post that I thought you might find interesting from the Senior Vice President for the American Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces (SAF), Koby Langley, it really gets to the heart of why we do what we do.
As we pause from our Red Cross duties to reflect on Veterans Day, I thought it fitting to share some historical thoughts with you about one of the American Red Cross’ most distinguished leaders who was also arguably one of the greatest military leaders in our nation’s history, General George C. Marshall:
“By the summer of 1949, President Truman was mulling over means of bringing Marshall back into public service as head of the American Red Cross. There were signs that Basil O’Connor, head of the American Red Cross since 1944, might soon retire. Why not, thought the President, give Marshall that job? It would associate him again with public affairs in a way that carried fewer burdens than had his previous appointments.
Basil O’Connor had been named by President Roosevelt to succeed Norman Davis as Chairman of the Red Cross when Davis died in 1944. O’Connor was very hardworking but had managed to offend and alienate some of the older Red Cross leaders. Many of the disagreements had been smothered during the war, when the Red Cross had given outstanding service to servicemen, refugees, prisoners of war, and others desolated throughout the world.
Part of the trouble came from the apparent domination of the organization in the late thirties by wealthy and socially prominent Eastern-establishment figures on the Red Cross board of governors. Active heads of chapters in other cities and regions complained that they had no voice in operations. Volunteer workers, a highly important part of the Red Cross’s activities, charged that they were not used or involved in decisions. These charges and complaints boiled down to the bitter feeling that a very few people ran the organization.
In 1946, the Red Cross made a decision to create a special committee headed by E. Roland Harriman, Averell Harriman’s brother, a partner in Brown Brothers, Harriman, and manager of the North Atlantic region of the Red Cross during the war. He and his committee members undertook to meet some of the chief complaints of others in the organization, and their proposed changes were approved by Congress and President Truman in the spring of 1947. The President of the United States was to appoint the President, and the board of governors was enlarged and rearranged to give far more representation to the chapters. Chairman O’Connor now became President.
Despite O’Connor’s efforts to stop controversy, sharp criticism persisted. By 1948, it was evident that the organization needed a leader of great stature who had not been associated with the infighting, and who could respond to the claims of all factions without prejudice. O’Connor made it plain that he was ready to step down.
Truman naturally thought of Marshall. His appeals for the European Recovery Program were of the exact kind needed by the American Red Cross. During the war he had sought public support for Red Cross drives, and his war’s-end reports praised the organization’s service to the men of the armed forces and their families. His 1948 speeches for ERP showed his effectiveness in convincing the same types of people that the Red Cross needed. Few were aware of another factor that made him so desirable as O’Connor’s successor. As Pershing’s aide in France after World War I and later in the United States, he came into contact with many Eastern- establishment figures, whose influence was still needed by the Red Cross. He was perhaps the one person who could bridge the gap between the factions…”
“Marshall set out to eliminate friction, to fire the workers with enthusiasm, to smooth out dissension. In the early months of the year he spent as head of the Red Cross, he was on the road constantly. In the last months, the coming- of the Korean War gave added emphasis to the Blood Bank program, and to morale-building services concerned with the troops and their families, thus gaining added support for overall programs.
The number of personal trips he made surprised even him. Near the end of 1949, he wrote Queen Frederika of Greece, who had asked about his new job, that although he was at Pinehurst for the winter, he would be traveling constantly on Red Cross business from January 15 until March 7, some 20,000 miles. Since taking over in October, he had covered 9,000 miles. In fact, he said, he would be increasingly busy until he took a few days off for rest in August.” From George C. Marshall: Statesman 1945-1959 by Forrest C. Pogue
Children Use Artistic Talent to Say “Thank You” to Service Members, Veterans
The annual American Red Cross Holidays for Heroes Campaign is in full swing, and Caring Cubs is making its annual contribution. The Northeast Ohio-based organization holds monthly events for children ages 2 and up, designed to teach various lessons of social responsibility. On Saturday, November 5th, dozens of children and their parents gathered in the Main Galleria at Cuyahoga Community College Western Campus in Parma to create cards to send to members of the military.
“It’s great to partner with organizations like Caring Cubs,” said Jessica Tischler, Regional Director of Service to the Armed Forces. “The cards they created will no doubt bring smiles to many faces this holiday season.”
Unlike previous campaigns, this year we hope to solicit cards that can be sent to service members and their families at every holiday during the year. We are asking for personal, heartfelt messages in every card, even if it means collecting fewer cards. See our earlier post, which includes a video highlighting the need for meaningful messages, as well as a list of items we are collecting for patients at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.
Log onto our Flickr page to see more photos of the Caring Cubs’ efforts to brighten the holidays for our heroes.
As in years past, we will begin collecting cards for our annual program – Holidays for Heroes. But this year, there is a new twist. We are hoping to collect cards that can be sent to service members, veterans and their families for EVERY HOLIDAY OVER THE COURSE OF THE COMING YEAR! That means Christmas and Chanukah cards, yes, but we are really hoping to get a large number of generalized cards of thanks that can be used for any occasion!
These cards are extremely touching to service members, veterans and their families. That is why we ask that you concentrate on providing a meaningful message in each card you write – even if that means you send in four cards instead of forty.
We will also be collecting new, small items to donate to the VA:
- Blank greeting cards (not sealed); with a forever postage stamp for service members to use for their own correspondence
- Combs/ brushes
- Deodorant (roll-on/spray)
- Disposable razors
- Hand lotion
- Shaving cream
- White socks
- Adult coloring books
- Colored pencils
- DVD movies
- Large print: Sudoku, word search, crossword books
- Low vision playing cards
The five chapters in Northeast Ohio are collecting the items and cards for local distribution to service members, their families, and veterans through area VA service locations, VFWs, and other military organizations. The cards may be delivered individually, included in care packages or displayed at common venues in military installations and hospitals.
A few rules:
- The Red Cross does not provide cards to sign. Instead, please feel free to make cards or use any favorites that you have on hand.
- In order to make cards as meaningful as possible for a wide audience, we recommend that you use generic titles such as “Dear Service Member,/Veteran/ Military Family Member” when writing the cards.
- Please, no personal information such as addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses
- Cards should not contain glitter because some cards may end up at the bedside of a wounded service member and the glitter could aggravate existing health issues.
- Please do not seal in individual envelopes. It is easier for our volunteers to screen and sort the cards if they aren’t individually sealed in envelopes.
- Individual cards can be dropped off or mailed to the Red Cross chapters in a large envelope or mailing box.
- We ask that people not enclose any items with the holiday cards. Any items enclosed with the holiday cards will be removed, including photos and other gifts. If you wish to provide financial support for Red Cross services to the military, please donate online.
- Chapters cannot accept cards after November 30– we still need time for our volunteers to sort and deliver!
You can mail cards, or drop cards and items off (between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.) to the following locations:
Greater Cleveland Chapter
3747 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115
Lake Erie/Heartland Chapter
244 West South Street
Wooster, OH 44691
2929 West River Rd. N.
Elyria, OH 44035
39 N. Park Street
Mansfield, OH 44902
Lake to River Chapter
3530 Belmont Avenue
Youngstown, OH 44505
Jefferson County Office
81 Talbott Drive
Wintersville, OH 43953
Stark County & Muskingum Lakes Chapter
408 9th Street, SW
Canton, OH 44707
Muskingum Lakes Office
1451 4th St. NW
New Philadelphia, OH 44663
Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter
501 West Market Street
Akron, OH 44303
How can you get involved in the Holiday Mail program beyond mailing a card?
Word of Mouth: Host a card signing party as part of your Thanksgiving Celebration!
Social Media: Connect with fellow card senders through social media channels and help us get the word out through Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to use the hashtag #holidaymail.
Help Sort and Deliver Cards: If you are interested in helping sort and deliver cards, please contact Jessica Tischler at 216-426-7525 to see how you can help.
For Active Military Members, Veterans and Their Families
The American Red Cross has unveiled the new Hero Care mobile application. This free app is designed to help members of the military, veterans and their families identify and access both emergency and non-emergency Red Cross services from anywhere in the world.
“When an emergency happens, accurate information, easy access to services and time are of the essence, especially for military families” said Jessica Tischler, Director of Service to the Armed Forces in the Northeast Ohio Region. “That’s why the Red Cross has designed the new Hero Care App – whether you’re the parent of a child joining the military, a military member, a military spouse or veteran, the Hero Care App will connect you vital services and guide you to valuable resources that will help alleviate stress during emergencies and provide important information right at your fingertips.”
Some the important features of the app include:
- 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.
Content in the Hero Care App is available in both English and Spanish, and the call center is staffed 24/7 with multi-lingual translation services.
Volunteers help the Red Cross provide Service to the Armed Forces. If you are interested in giving back to our nation’s heroes by volunteering with Red Cross SAF, click here, or call 216-431-3328.
She was one of 11,000 known as a SPAR
Semper Paratus. Latin for “Always Ready,” the motto of the United States Coast Guard. During World War II, 11,000 women joined the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve and were called “SPARs,” an acronym of the motto combining the Latin and English initials.
One of the women of the U. S. Coast Guard Women’s Reserve was Virginia Conklin, the mother of American Red Cross Lake to River Chapter Executive Director Karen Conklin.
Mike Parks, the CEO of the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region and a retired U. S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral, recently presented Mrs. Conklin with a Challenge Coin, a military tradition meant to prove membership if challenged, or in recognition of special achievement.
“It is an honor and a privilege to meet a SPAR,” Mike said, adding, “What a remarkable lady, who at 92 years young is still an inspiration to all of us.”
During World War II, the U. S. war effort required more men at sea. Women were not yet integrated into the military, but to allow Coast Guardsmen to deploy, the Women’s Reserve was created to fill jobs the men had been doing stateside.
One of those jobs was resupplying “Liberty Ships,” 2,700 cargo vessels that were mass produced during the war. (One Liberty Ship was named after Red Cross founder Clara Barton.)
“About every two weeks we would go out on a PT boat with supplies,” Virginia remembered. “We’d have to walk the gang plank to deliver them. And on the way back, we trolled for shrimp, which would be the night’s supper.”
She was stationed in Savannah, Georgia after training in West Palm Beach, Florida. Virginia says the prospect of warm weather was one of the factors that motivated her to join the Coast Guard, after growing up in Chester, West Virginia.
Another motivating factor was her job. She hated it. She wanted to go to college, but without the money to pay for it, she went to work straight out of high school. The Coast Guard was offering to pay for college following the service of those who enlisted, so Virginia Conklin signed up in 1944, despite her father’s misgivings.
“He hated it,” Virginia said. “He was a World War I vet, and he thought all we were going to do was smoke and drink.” But dad finally relented, and signed the papers to allow his 20 year-old daughter to enlist.
After the war, things did not exactly go as planned. Virginia Conklin married and had three children. She was 48 years old when she finally got her bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University. She earned a master’s degree at West Virginia University, and taught high school English for 18 years before retiring.
The SPARs lasted just 4 years. The Coast Guard disbanded the Women’s Reserve in 1946. Virginia Conklin served as a SPAR from 1944 to 1946. “The best two years of my life.”
By Mike Parks, CEO, American Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region
RADM USCG (Ret.)
Members of the Northeast Ohio Region of the American Red Cross Family: Although I know many of you have been busy this weekend continuing the lifesaving work of our American Red Cross, I wanted to be sure to encourage each of us to take time to reflect and remember why we even recognize the holiday known as Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is mostly known as the party-packed kickoff weekend to summer, and it includes a day off from work. While, yes, that makes it an amazing annual celebration, the history of Memorial Day is extremely important to keep in mind. It is about honoring all the brave individuals who have lost their lives while serving in the military. This holiday is centuries old, and in the midst of hitting the open road with friends and backyard barbeques, we should at least take a moment to acknowledge all the service members who have died fighting for our freedom. After all, that’s why Memorial Day exists in the first place—and our freedom isn’t “free.”
To all of you, thank you for your tremendous service to the American Red Cross and what you do every day to help our communities. If you’d like to learn more about Memorial Day and the American Red Cross—I’ve included some information below. Have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.
MEMORIAL DAY AND THE AMERICAN RED CROSS
Memorial Day (then known as Decoration Day) originally honored those who died in the Civil War. Because the Civil War occurred on American soil, it had the highest number of American casualties. About 620,000 American soldiers died in the Civil War, whereas 700,000 Americans have died in all other conflicts and wars combined. So following the Civil War, a tradition of decorating soldiers’ graves on a day in spring was born. It’s fitting that the origins of the American Red Cross were found during that same deadly conflict.
When the Civil War began in 1861, Clara Barton was just another clerk at the Patent Office in Washington, D.C. Barton’s great crusade, which helped define modern humanitarianism, began when she saw soldiers crowding into the city without food or shelter prepared for them. More importantly, there was not enough medical care for wounded soldiers returning from the front.
She began distributing food and supplies to sick and wounded soldiers in the area but soon realized there was an even greater need for her services closer to the battlefield. After receiving permission to travel to the front lines, she started delivering medical supplies and tending to wounded soldiers right on the fields of battle, often risking her life to do so. Eventually, army commanders recognized the good work she was doing and gave her responsibility for all the Union’s hospitals along the James River.
After the war, Barton continued her humanitarian work by helping relatives find the remains of 22,000 soldiers who’d been reported missing. She also helped identify — and bury — 13,000 casualties of the Andersonville Prison Camp in Georgia.
After four years of this work, Barton took a break and visited Europe. But any chance for a restful vacation ended when she learned of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which had been founded in Geneva in 1864. She was drawn to its mission of providing international aid to protect the sick and wounded on all sides in war.
Barton stayed to help civilians caught up in the Franco-Prussian War, and when she returned to the States, she urged the U.S. government to sign the Geneva Treaty that created the ICRC. U.S. approval to join the international organization came in 1881, and the American Red Cross was incorporated on May 21 of that year.
Now, 135 years later, the American Red Cross is still going strong, providing shelter, food, and healthcare services at roughly 70,000 disasters every year, from single-home fires to earthquakes that affect millions. Its blood program collects, tests, and types over 40 percent of the country’s blood supply. It delivers needed services to 150,000 military families each year, including training and support for wounded veterans. The Red Cross also provides training in first aid, CPR, and lifeguarding. As part of an international organization, it joins the Red Cross in 187 countries to help over 100 million people worldwide every year.