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)

Mike’s Memorial Day Message

By Mike Parks, RADM, U. S. Coast Guard (Ret.)
Chief Executive Officer, American Red Cross, Northeast Ohio Region

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Northeast Ohio American Red Cross Family:  This weekend we will commemorate Memorial Day—the last official observance during Military Appreciation Month.  Six days ago we observed Armed Forces Day (May 19th) when we recognized all those who have, or are serving, in our Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard).   This day of commemoration began in 1949 when President Truman proclaimed it would be observed on the third Saturday in May.

We also recognize military spouses’ incredible impact to our lives and communities during this month on Military Spouse Appreciation Day which is observed on the Friday in May right before Mother’s Day ever since President Reagan proclaimed it so in 1984.

As we prepare to recognize Memorial Day, which is often associated with the unofficial start of summer (especially for boaters and anglers on the shores of Lake Erie), we should remember that Memorial Day honors those almost 1.2 million servicemen and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice serving our great nation.  The last Monday in May is set aside for our nation to Honor, Remember, and Never Forget the fallen and their sacrifice.

So as we put burgers on the BBQ in our backyards this weekend, take in some baseball, basketball, or boating, let us not forget why we have this long weekend.  We’re fortunate to live in a part of the country where small town Memorial Day parades are everywhere—please take one in—stand and place your hand over your heart when “Old Glory” passes by—thank a veteran for their service—simply put, remember and honor the sacrifice that has paid, and continues to pay, for our freedom!  As members of the American Red Cross—we’re privileged to serve in the world’s premier humanitarian organization that has a long history of serving our Armed Forces of this world’s greatest nation—an organization that has it’s very roots in the battlefield.  Thank you for what you do and for Honoring, Remembering, and Never Forgetting!  God bless the United States of America.

Yours in service,
Mike Parks.

Memorial Day Remarks from CEO Mike Parks

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Mike Parks, Regional Chief Executive Officer and U. S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral (Retired) delivered the keynote address at the Memorial Day commemoration for the city of Pepper Pike.  In his remarks, Mike noted how Memorial Day and the Red Cross both have their roots in the Civil War, and that the Red Cross continues to provide Service to the Armed Forces. He also wrote the following message to Red Cross workers in the Northeast Ohio Region:

Members of the NEO Red Cross Family:    Memorial Day is such a special day when we pay homage to those brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might be able to enjoy the freedoms we do each and every day.    As many of you know, both Memorial Day and the Red Cross have their origins in the Civil War.  The first Memorial Day—then known as Decoration Day—was in 1866 when Civil War soldiers’ graves were adorned with flowers.  And of course, Clara Barton’s service providing aid and comfort to soldiers as a nurse during the Civil War inspired her to begin the American Red Cross. 

 Thank you all for all you do each and every day to help pay it forward and never taking our freedom for granted.  Just a reminder, the National Moment of Remembrance Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 2000 to “encourage people of the US to give something back to their country which provides them with so much freedom and opportunity.”  

I encourage all of us to join together on this Memorial Day at 3:00 p.m., wherever we may be, whatever we may be doing, to contemplate the cost of our freedoms…the freedom to speak our mind…to live where we’d like…to practice whatever religion we choose…to vote…to travel anywhere in this great…the freedom to be anything we choose to be…the freedom to dream…because we are all Americans and we can come together, to honor those who have given their all—so that we may be free! 

I’ll leave you with the inspiring words of singer Lee Greenwood…you know the tune:  “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.  And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me!” 

Have a great day & God Bless the USA!  Best regards…Mike

Regional CEO’s Memorial Day Message

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.

Best regards…Mike

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Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery

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.

 

 

The Red Cross Remembers Our Nation’s Fallen Heroes

Memorial Day weekend is a busy one for volunteers of the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF,) as we honor those who lost their lives defending our freedom.

Knowing in advance that military families will be able to reach their loved ones, and have access to financial and other types of assistance provides piece of mind to families who are separated. SAF volunteers help the Red Cross provide follow-up to emergency communications for military members and their families; outreach through SAF programs like “Get to Know Us Before You Need Us” or resiliency training; or work with nearby Veterans Affairs medical facilities through the Veterans Affairs Voluntary Services (VAVS) program.

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The Louis Stokes VA Medical Center in Cleveland

The Red Cross K9 Action Team will take part in the day-long Operation: Flags of Freedom event at Perry High School in Massillon on Saturday, May 28. The Volunteer K9 Action Team provides “comfort therapy” to disaster victims and to members of the military and their families.

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The K9 Action Team

Also on Saturday, Red Cross SAF Volunteers will be providing cups of water to approximately 1,700 Boy Scouts as they place flags throughout the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman.  They will be preparing the cemetery for the Memorial Day ceremony to take place at noon on Sunday, May 29. Red Cross volunteers will distribute cups of water to an anticipated crowd of 4,000 visitors.

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Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery, Veterans Day Program 2015

Volunteers will also honor our nation’s fallen heroes by taking part in the North Canton Memorial Day parade, beginning at 9:00 AM on Monday, May 30.

Memorial Day weekend is considered by many as the unofficial start of the summer season.  And we memorialize those who made the ultimate sacrifice, to afford us the freedom to fire-up our grills and fly our flags as we enjoy our families in the United States of America.

Happy Memorial Day.