Memorial Day message from CEO Mike Parks

Members of the NEO Red Cross Family:

I wanted to share a few thoughts about the meaning of one of the most special times of the year.

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving their country in the Armed Forces (more than 1.265 million people have given their lives!). Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday, “Memorial Day,” in 1971.

Although Waterloo, New York is known as the birthplace of this holiday because of the community remembrance event it held in 1866, the first national commemoration was held at Arlington National Cemetery in 1868.  At that ceremony, former Union General and sitting Ohio Congressman James Garfield, gave a speech before 5,000 participants who then helped decorate more than 20,000 soldiers’ graves.

Memorial Day BlogGarfield inspired the crowd when he proclaimed, “We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.” I still find those sentiments spoken by a Northeast Ohioan inspiring more than 250 years later!

Memorial Day has become synonymous with the unofficial beginning of summer with parades and backyard barbeques, and for many, a three-day long weekend.  As appropriate and enjoyable as all those things are, my sincere hope is that as members of an organization that also traces our roots back to the Civil War, we will not forget the real meaning of this important day when we honor those that made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom we still enjoy each and every day.

The more of these special commemorative days I celebrate, the more I avoid wishing others a “Happy” Memorial Day—instead I like to encourage them to have an enjoyable weekend as they “honor” Memorial Day.  So as you take in a parade (don’t forget to stand and put your hand over your heart when the American Flag passes by as it’s carried by a marcher), enjoy a barbecue with friends, take in a ballgame, or take a family trip, I hope you each have an enjoyable weekend as you honor Memorial Day and remember those who gave their all so we could enjoy our weekends in peace and freedom!

Thank you for all you do as dedicated members of the world’s premier humanitarian organization!!

Enjoy and stay safe.

Best regards,

Mike Parks- Regional CEO and U. S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral (Retired)

Recalling one woman’s lifetime of service

Record recorder on display in Cleveland is symbol of her contributions

By Samantha Pudelski, American Red Cross volunteer

In 1945, at the peak of the American Red Cross support during WWII, 7.5 million volunteers along with 39,000 paid staff provided service to the military.

Juel CollinsJuel Ward Collins was one of those volunteers. According to her son, Tom, Juel started volunteering for the Red Cross during WWII. She was proud of her assistance to the Red Cross mission and how she helped those who served our country in times of war. This volunteer work during the war began her lifetime of service on behalf of the Red Cross.

After the war, Juel continued to volunteer and went on to become part of the Red Cross staff in its Greater Cleveland chapter in the 1960s. She managed the West Shore office, where she oversaw services offered in the community. She coordinated the volunteers helping with both local and national disaster relief efforts, provided relief services in the field, and assisted at blood drives.

When members of the military were deployed during the Vietnam War, Juel once again provided service to those in the armed forces. Tom recalls his mother helping with paperwork during that time—assisting servicemen and women, with the help of their families, to obtain documents such as proof of citizenship. She also helped families by contacting a solider if there was a death or illness in the family. During the Vietnam War, the Red Cross handled more than 2,168,000 emergency communications between servicemen and their families.

Additionally, Juel worked to keep families connected by sending recorded letters to their loved ones overseas. Known as “Voices from Home,” the program engaged Red Cross volunteers like Juel to use a record recorder to record messages to send to servicemen. Tom graciously donated his mother’s record recorder to the Red Cross, which is now displayed in the Northeast Ohio Regional Office in Cleveland.

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Juel’s contributions are a piece of Red Cross history. Her story represents the lifetime dedication of one inspirational woman as well as a testament to the support the Red Cross has provided to those who have served in the military.

Juel is just one of the many individuals who volunteer their time with the Red Cross. Learn how you can volunteer and make an impact like she did by visiting redcross.org/volunteer.

The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross is grateful to Tom Collins for sharing the story of his mother’s dedicated service with the Red Cross throughout her lifetime.

Romance scams: don’t fall for one

By Jim McIntyre, Regional Communications and Marketing Manager, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

We’ve been warned by the Better Business Bureau, law enforcement officials and others about the proliferation of scams this time of year.  Sadly, not everyone has the holiday spirit.  A scam that recently caught our attention involves a scammer impersonating someone in the military, finding a sympathetic soul online, and asking for cash under false pretenses.

“It happens too often,” said Jessica Tischler, Regional Director, Service to the Armed Forces, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio.  “Scammers try to take advantage of vulnerable people who think they’re giving assistance to a member of the military.”

Armed Forces 2011Romance scams are the most commonly reported scams, according to the U. S. Army.  The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID) receives hundreds of allegations a month from victims who say they got involved with someone who claims to be a U.S. soldier online, on a legitimate dating website or other social media website.

Suspicions should arise if:

  • There are requests for money
  • If social media is the only means of communications
  • If the .mil suffix is not a part of an email address.

Other red flags include the scammer saying he/she is on a peace keeping mission, saying he/she can’t talk on the phone due to security reasons, and professes his/her love almost immediately, using terms of affection like “my love” or “my darling.”

An obvious warning sign is when someone who claims to be a U.S. military member does not have English and grammar skills that should match those of someone born and raised in the United States.

“While the Red Cross can’t help someone who has been victimized by a scam, we do offer vital services to members of the military, veterans, and their families,” Jessica said.  Among those services are emergency communications, for members of the military who are currently serving on active duty. Armed Forces 2011

“Loved ones must have some specific information about the family member they need to contact, like name, rank, branch of service, social security number or birth date, and the address of their military unit. Non-disclosure of this information is another red flag that you may not be dealing with a legitimate service member.”

The Army CID urges anyone who feels they have been scammed by a someone claiming to be a member of the military to contact the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission.  The FTC Identify Theft Hotline is 877-ID-THEFT (438-4338.)

NEO Red Cross collecting supplies to support military service members and veterans in need this holiday season

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist,American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Communications volunteer.

This holiday season, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio is teaming up with the Ohio Troop and Family Assistance Center (TFAC) to provide supplies to military families and veterans in need.

During the holiday season, to give thanks to our military for everything they do for us each day, the Red Cross is collecting toiletries and paper goods. The TFAC has a “pantry”/ “care room” at the North Canton National Guard Armory but supports all 22 counties of the Red Cross’ Northeast Ohio Region. The pantry is in need of feminine products, diapers (all sizes), laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap and men’s razors. It is recommended that items be smaller in size but not trial size

The Red Cross has a long history of assisting military service members, their families and veterans. Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross, risked her life during the Civil War to bring supplies to soldiers in the fields. This service and the continued need to support and protect the sick and wounded during wartime led Clara to establish the Red Cross in 1881.This commitment to the military and those in need in times of conflict and humanitarian crises led to the Red Cross receiving a congressional charter in 1905 to fulfill provisions of the Geneva Conventions. These responsibilities are to provide family communications and other forms of support to the U.S. military and to maintain a system of domestic and international disaster relief. Despite this close relationship with the federal government, the Red Cross is an independent nonprofit that does not receive federal funding.

Today, the Red Cross continues our strong commitment to our service members, their families and veterans, which began with Clara on the battlefields. Service to the Armed Forces remains one of our five service areas. From the first day of enlistment, service members and their families are eligible for Red Cross assistance. Every day, the American Red Cross provides 24/7 global emergency communication services and support in military and veteran healthcare facilities across the country and around the world. Some of the services the Red Cross provides are helping to cope with deployment, delivering verified messages during emergencies at home, keeping in touch with military families and informing them that help is always available, helping find access to financial assistance, providing information and referral services and assisting with veterans appeals, building skills for successful reintegration and much more. 

If you are interested in donating items to military members, their families and veterans in need in Northeast Ohio, Red Cross chapter locations in Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Elyria, New Philadelphia,Wooster and Youngstown are accepting donations. Donated items will be delivered to TFAC pantry. You can find the addresses to each drop-off location by visiting the locations page at redcross.org/neo.

Mike’s Veterans Day Message

By Mike Parks, Rear Admiral, U. S. Coast Guard (Retired) and CEO, American Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region

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Mike Parks

“On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” in 1918 the Allies signed the armistice to end World War I.  That day, originally celebrated as Armistice Day, has evolved over the last 100 years into Veterans Day to honor the service and sacrifice of all veterans.  

This Veterans Day, as we commemorate the centennial of the end of the “war to end all wars,” (as World War I was originally known), we acknowledge it was anything but that as we also honor those brave and dedicated men and women who served in World War I, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf,  Iraq & Afghanistan, as well as those millions of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who have secured our freedom during the intervening times of peace.

As we participate in parades, school assemblies, or other events honoring our veterans, please take time to reflect on those veterans that you know personally, be they family, friends, colleagues, or even acquaintances you meet in your daily activities.  Please thank them for their service—that thank you goes a long way and costs us nothing but a few seconds of our time—and it means more than you can imagine to those selfless servants. 

It’s with that gratitude in mind, I thank all of you, especially those who have worn the uniform of our country, for all you have done and continue to do to serve our nation and help support our veterans and the members of our Armed Forces.  As you know, our American Red Cross has a long and distinguished history of serving those in uniform as our genesis can be traced back to the battlefields of our Civil War.  Red Crossers have been serving men and women in the Armed Forces, and their families since our organization’s creation.  This week, we had the privilege of hosting the members of the Crossroads Division Service to the Armed Forces team here in Cleveland—just another reminder of how vitally important the American Red Cross is to the members of our military.  Thank you for recognizing and celebrating our veterans this Veterans Day!  Best regards…Mike

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.

Spotlight on Josh Mattulat: New Executive Coordinator, Northeast Ohio Region

Former military officer reunited with CEO Mike Parks after losing his home in Texas during Hurricane Harvey

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By Brad Galvan, Red Cross volunteer

It’s apparent that retired U. S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Michael Parks, the current CEO of the American Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region, agrees with U.S. Representative Dan Lipinski, who famously said, “On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind.”  Staying true to this pledge, Josh Mattulat was recently hired as the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region’s executive coordinator.

Josh Mattulat spent two years as Mike’s right-hand man as military aide when both were serving our country in the Ninth  Coast Guard District headquartered in Cleveland. The district was involved in challenging missions spanning the Great Lakes, from search and rescue, to pollution control, to border security.

Following that assignment, Josh moved his family to Seattle to continue his Coast Guard career. For  three years, he led a team of more than 100 that focused on maritime safety and security.

In 2017, Josh and his wife Katherine, parents of four children, decided it was time to set down their roots and raise their children. Josh left the Coast Guard and the family moved to Galveston, Texas, where Josh launched his own business as a metal fabricator. Unfortunately, a few months later their home was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. Safe, but displaced and devastated, Josh and Katherine decided they needed to get out of Texas to catch their collective breaths. During a short visit at Josh’s father’s home in Idaho, Josh was job searching and saw a position with the Northeast Ohio Red Cross working under Mike. It was a great fit and he applied.  Josh and his family now live in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and he works for the Red Cross’ Northeast Ohio Region. He couldn’t be happier.

“I’m surrounded by great people who add value to their communities and beyond,” Josh said.  “And words can’t express how much it means to be reunited with a personal mentor like Mike.”

When asked about being reunited with Josh, Mike said, “I’ve known Josh Mattulat for many years, and I’m so pleased he’s bringing his energy, enthusiasm and skills back to Northeast Ohio to help us meet mission each and every day.”

Josh, like other military veterans, has transferable skills that were obtained while on assignment in the service. Many military members find it tough landing a job after leaving the military, even former officers. He explains that the organizational, leadership, communication and logistical coordination traits can be applied in most organizations and employers will be very impressed with the loyalty, commitment and enthusiasm that most military veterans will display in a civilian organization. These attributes will benefit and serve his new employer well as Josh put his skills to work and dedicates his service to the Red Cross.

Mike Parks would certainly agree.

This article was edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer