American Red Cross bridges gap from family to front lines

18 Oct 2006 | Lance Cpl. Patrick M. Fleischman

Information is vital to any combat operation, whether it’s ‘where’s the enemy?’ to ‘where’s lunch?’ But when it comes to information from home, the American Red Cross takes over.

From July 1 to Oct. 11, Camp Lejeune’s American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services Unit communicated 1,070 emergency messages to service members worldwide.

“We are the connection in the field between Marines, sailors and government workers to their families back home,” said Jason W. Marshal, assistant station manager for the American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services Unit here.

Messages are sent for reasons such as birth announcements, health and welfare inquiries, to serious illnesses or family deaths, explained Marshal.

Messages send news from home straight to a service member in the field, after verifying the information for commanding officers to determine whether emergency leave is necessary, added Marshal.

“Without a Red Cross message, a Marine cannot take emergency leave to come home,” said Marshal.

It’s important to recognize the volunteers who labor to relay these messages, said Marshal.

“We have volunteers who work 40 hours a week and do so gladly,” said Marshal.

Having moved here from Naples, Italy, Tessa Gallagher, a former Red Cross employee, is now a volunteer caseworker here and explains, “I knew the value and importance of the Red Cross [as an employee] for the service members and their families, so I wanted to carry on my case-working here [by volunteering] to help my local community.”

Gallagher is not only a volunteer but also a member of the community of people helped by the Red Cross.

“I was giving birth to my son at Cherry Point and they contacted my husband overseas to let him know about it,” added Gallagher.

“This has been an enriching experience and has helped me develop a new set of skills, fits my schedule and provides me with a sense of satisfaction by helping people,” said Gallagher.

There are many things that volunteers can do and a place for anybody over the age of 15, said Gallagher.

“Ninety-eight percent of Red Cross manpower is provided through volunteers and we’re always looking for more”, concluded Marshal.

Marshal, a former Marine, will be leaving next week to support the service members directly by working in Balad, Iraq for the American Red Cross.

The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization led by volunteers and employees, guided by its Congressional Charter and the fundamental principles of the International Red Cross Movement, will provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies, according to the Red Cross website.

To volunteer in your area visit or contact the Red Cross office on Camp Lejeune at 451-2173.