Home

It’s two in the morning and you’re on a flight home.  You’ve been overseas for eight months, and were unsure if you would ever actually see it again.  The feeling that overcomes you isn’t what you would expect it to be though.  Happiness…Joy…excitement.  These are the typical emotions that you would expect to feel when returning back to the place that was once your place of comfort. Home.

For many veterans there is an abrupt end to the extended duration of time spent on deployment.  Organized duties and missions completed with a cohesive unit suddenly come to a screeching halt, and you are thrust back into civilian life once again.  Airmen bring back their military issued rucksack full of gear which has seen months and miles of resolute but lonely duty, but they also bring back their mental baggage full of tough experiences and painful moments locked deep in a vault that was created to harden the mind to perform their duty.  Straddling the line between military life and civilian life while trying to exist part-time in both worlds is the challenge.

Last month The American Red Cross – Central California Region held a workshop in collaboration with the Department of Defense called the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program.  The event hosted the men and women of the California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing based in Fresno, California.  The event provided marriage counseling, Veterans affairs information on education and training benefits, domestic violence and suicide awareness and prevention.  It also provided vital information regarding depression, brain injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorders.

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The Red Cross augmented the schedule with a mid-day “Reconnection Workshop” where the nearly 250 attendees were put into groups of 20 led by an American Red Cross mental health professional who helped guide them through a carefully targeted training module.  The module titled “Communicating Clearly” gave the participants a fresh perspective on how to enhance their communication skills, and be more successful in their relations at both home and work.  The implementation of these “Reconnection” workshops is a key aspect in helping to reconnect our service members with family and successfully re-engage them to civilian life.

As a special addition to the day’s schedule, the Red Cross also provided a companion skill building activity for the children of the attending Service members.  While their parents were learning valuable communication skills in the “Reconnection Workshop”, the children were engaged in the interactive “Pillowcase Project”.  The Red Cross emergency preparedness program helps to educate and increase awareness regarding natural hazards.  The “Pillowcase Project”, sponsored by Disney, is an interactive activity where each child received a pre-printed pillowcase with Disney characters that they get to decorate and take home to use as their personal preparedness kit.

At the end of the day families left for home better outfitted to deal effectively with the special challenges a military family faces that are often impacted greater by a tough deployment.  Deployment can be hard not only on the deployed, but the family that they leave behind.

It’s eight in the morning and your flight has landed. You’ve retrieved your luggage from the baggage claim, and as you start to walk towards the entrance you hear someone shout your name.  You turn to see the bright shining faces of your loved ones, and that is when you remember.  This is HOME.

-Ryan Henry Jackson                                                                                                       Communications Coordinator

The Red Cross is the Place I Get to be Myself

“I’ve been told I’m a “Preparedness Fanatic,” laughs Holly Green a Red Cross Volunteer in Bakersfield, California. “And, that’s okay, because at the Red Cross, I get to be myself!”

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Red Cross volunteer Holly Green stands in front of an Emergency Response Vehicle during the Home Fire Campaign MLK Day of Service event in Bakersfield.

Holly volunteers for the Red Cross Central California Region and has been a Red Cross Volunteer since Hurricane Katrina.  But she’s not the first in her family to feel the call to serve.

“My mother was a volunteer with the Red Cross back when I was little and we were stationed in Germany. She worked out of the Wiesbaden office, and did casework, so I guess you can say I followed in her footsteps.”  Holly explains that during Desert Storm, her mother’s hard work was instrumental in getting over 500 Red Cross Grants to soldiers coming home.

“I love working with the Red Cross, just as my mother did.” explains Holly.  “This job makes my soul feel alive and no matter how tired we are, the people we help are what make it all worthwhile.”

Holly stays busy as a caseworker, pitching in with office duties at her local chapter, and sharing her enthusiasm and talent at special events such as the Pillowcase Project and Be Red Cross Ready Presentations. Her latest effort was assisting her team in the installation of smoke alarms in her home town as part of the MLK Day of Service effort this January.  “This was an amazing project! I love installing these alarms and sitting with a family to help them prepare for a fire or other disaster, because I know we are saving lives.”

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Holly and her husband Aaron team up with Kern County Fire Department Explorer Gabriel Gomez and Red Cross Public Affairs volunteer Michele Maki to install free smoke alarms in Bakersfield homes.

Holly encourages others to volunteer too. “We get the opportunity to meet people in our own community and hearing how thankful they are for what we are doing. That makes my heart so happy!” And, as Holly said, if you care about others and want to help other prepare and prevent disasters, the Red Cross is a place where you “get to be yourself”!

For more information on how you can volunteer, please go to www.RedCross.org.

Michele Maki
Red Cross Volunteer

Since our local chapters were first chartered in 1917, the Red Cross has been here for the last 100 years when people in Central California needed us most.  Your Red Cross story of the past can be a part of our centennial celebration. Do you have your own Red Cross story to share? Click here to submit it directly online! 

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A Family Tradition: Two Generations of Red Cross Service

This month is the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and I would like to share a World War II Red Cross Story that involves my Mom.  It includes cities that are now in the Central California Region, and also highlights AAA partnership with Red Cross.

My Mom passed away in 2004 and I was recently going through a file and found the card and letter among her important papers (birth certificate, passport, etc.), so evidently it was something that was very dear to her.  The picture came from her picture album.

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This display of Audrey’s service now hangs in the new Red Cross satellite office in Oakhurst, CA

My mother Audrey grew up in San Francisco, her parents had married soon after experiencing the 1906 Earthquake. When World War II began, my mother, Audrey Stewart was finishing her Master’s Degree in Education at Stanford University in Palo Alto.  Men were heading off to war and many schools were in need of teachers. Audrey was immediately recruited to be a teacher in Santa Maria.

In February 1942, Audrey became a driver for the Santa Maria Red Cross (now Red Cross of the Pacific Coast.  I believe most of her duties were taking Plane Spotters to their locations along the coastal hills. For those of us who grew up on the west coast, our parents would tell us that after Pearl Harbor, there was a real fear that the Japanese might invade cities along the coast.  Volunteers manned observation posts along the coast with the purpose of identifying enemy aircraft in time to prevent future attacks.

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Now a volunteer herself, Hilary is proud of the special Red Cross connection to her mother.

Interestingly, I attended a Ready, Set, Respond! Disaster Preparedness Program at the AAA offices in 2013 in Fresno.  I was one of the attendees that later became a volunteer!

Hilary Swartz
Red Cross Volunteer

Hilary is a volunteer for Red Cross of the Central Valley, teaching lifesaving CPR/First Aid courses and providing relief as a disaster responder.

Since our local chapters were chartered in 1917, the Red Cross has been here for the last 100 years when people in Central California needed us most.  Your Red Cross story of the past can be a part of our centennial celebration. Do you have your own Red Cross story to share? Click here to submit it directly online! 135604-central-ca-region-centennial-logo-final-1

Red Cross Workshops Support Local Military Families

To any outsider, the beige hotel ballroom full of people and round banquet tables probably looked like any other conference. But what was happening inside was remarkable.

20161105-reconnection-workshop-cang-fresno-1On this particular day, dozens of local military families were receiving life changing resources to help them cope with deployment. It was all part of a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event, an effort to promote the well-being of National Guard and Reserve members, their families, and communities, by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle. This event was held specifically for California Army National Guard troops that had just returned from a yearlong deployment in Kuwait. Many of them are also veterans of previous deployments, including Iraq.

“With multiple deployments and the untold stresses of the war zone, these soldiers have faced many challenges and yet now face the distinct challenge of simply returning home,” said Marcella Franklin, Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Manager.

The American Red Cross plays a large role at these events, hosting programs called Reconnection Workshops. On this particular day, Red Cross volunteers from around the country came together in the Central California Region to host the Communicating Clearly Reconnection Workshop.

“It’s difficult to be away from family and friends for extended periods of time. These people are gone for nine months to a year, so that’s a real separation,” said lead facilitator Tonya Nakashima.

Often, families find themselves feeling like strangers after months of separation. The means of communication at home are often different than those used during deployment. The Communicating Clearly workshop helps participants improve their communication skills to better manage the post-deployment period.

“Family dynamics often change during the soldier’s absence, with partners assuming new roles and responsibilities, children who have grown and matured, and new routines and schedules established,” said Franklin.

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Highly trained Red Cross volunteers from around the nation came to the Central California Region to lead the Reconnection Workshop

The Red Cross Reconnection Workshops, which are free and confidential, focus on individual and small group discussion that enhances the likelihood of positive reconnections among family members and others in the community, and the successful re-engagement of service members and veterans in civilian life.

Reconnection Workshops are just one part of the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program. Just last month alone, the local Red Cross helped send 80 emergency communication messages for services members to commands around the world, participated in two stand down events to support homeless veterans, and many more activities to support military families.

Supporting military families is one of the oldest traditions of the American Red Cross. The organization was founded in 1881 by Clara Barton after she witnessed firsthand the need to care for soldiers during the Civil War. Today, the Red Cross is one of the only military non-profits that supports service members from the day they enlist through their time as a veteran.

Learn more about Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Programs and find an upcoming event near you by visiting yellowribbon.mil.

Heroes Series: Serving Those Who Serve Our Country

There are 19.3 million military veterans in the United States as of 2014, and California is home to the largest veteran population in the nation with nearly two million. That means there are countless people and organizations like the Red Cross working hard every day to support our local veterans and their families.

Two of those people have been honored as this year’s Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Heroes: Sandra Gould and Pete Pepper.

 

Sandra plays an important dual role, serving as both a Case Manager with Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) through CAPSLO and also as a Veteran’s Service Representative with SLO County Veterans Services. With her support, the SSVF program has assisted 143 veterans and their families.

Watch her story:

Pete Pepper is the founder of Central Coast Veterans Helping Veterans and serves as the Co-Mentor Coordinator for the San Luis Obispo Veterans Treatment Court. He has also made multiple trips to Vietnam with fellow veterans, creating an award winning documentary, Killing Memories, about their healing journey.

Watch his story:

Both Sandra and Pete were nominated by their peers and community for these awards, because of their compassion and dedication to serving military veterans.

“What Sandra has done for the homeless veterans in our county is nothing short of amazing,” said nominator Robert Ellis, “Sandra has played a most significant role in this success by connecting these veterans with the benefits they deserved, and were not getting, that enabled them to move out of the creek or off the street and into permanent housing.”

“Pete is an outstanding example of a vet advocating for vets,” said Sr. Theresa Harpin. His advocacy for local veterans has made the Veteran’s Mentor Program “one of the finest in the country.”

The work of everyday heroes like Sandra and Pete can often go unsung, but the Red Cross is proud to honor their selfless acts of compassion and courage. Learn more about the Heroes for the American Red Cross program at redcross.org/sloheroes.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company is proud to present this year’s Service to the Armed Forces Hero awards. The Red Cross is proud to be celebrating a 40-year safety partnership with PG&E.

Partnering For Fire Safety

In Fall 2014, the Red Cross took on a lofty new goal to reduce home fire death and injuries by 25% over the next five years. This would largely be done through fire safety education and free smoke alarm installations – one home, one neighborhood at a time.

We knew immediately that this couldn’t be accomplished on our own; the Home Fire Campaign would need the support of the entire community.

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FRCSW Detachment being honored at a Ventura County Home Fire Campaign event

That’s where the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) Detachment at Point Mugu came in. Partners like military installations, first responders, local churches and businesses are crucial to the success of the Home Fire Campaign. The sailors at the FRCSW Detachment have participated in multiple events, bringing a special level of energy and dedication to the program.

“We love having the Fleet Readiness Center participate in our events,” said Red Cross Preparedness Manager Sara Northrop, “They’re all so eager to help the community and teach local families the importance of fire safety.”

IMG_3516And the members have fun and feel rewarded, too.

“Volunteering with the American Red Cross and their Home Fire Campaign has been the most self-rewarding opportunity for me. It feels great to know that I am making a positive impact in the communities around me,” said AD1 Cody Brissey, “Seeing the smile we put on people’s faces when we tell them what we are doing in their community is a great feeling.”

IMG_3508“I’ve volunteered multiple times in this campaign,” said Casey Young of the FRCSW Detachment, “and each time my experiences have gotten better and better.”

We thank the FRCSW Detachment and all of the organizations and corporations who help to make the Home Fire Campaign a success! With your support, we’re able to save lives and build community throughout the region.

If you’re interested in participating in a Home Fire Campaign, either as an individual or with your organization, you’re in luck! The next event is happening in Santa Maria on Saturday, January 30, 2016. Click here to sign up today!

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Honor Veterans by Supporting Your Local Red Cross

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This Veteran’s Day, take a moment to serve those who serve our country by supporting a local charity like the Red Cross. Service to the Armed Forces is one the organization’s least known services, and yet one of the oldest Red Cross traditions. Everyone knows the Red Cross for large disasters like wildfires and earthquakes, but many may not realize the important role that Red Cross volunteers play every day to support the military.

The mission of the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces program is to provide humanitarian support to military members, veterans, and their families around the clock and around the globe. The Red Cross even provides more blood to veterans than any other organization in the country.

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Logan Weaver, 1992

Another one of the many services that Red Cross volunteers provide is emergency communications between families and service members. In the last year alone, the Red Cross Central California Region connected 746 local military families to service members through emergency communications. Local Red Cross volunteer and 20 year Navy veteran Logan Weaver knows about these Red Cross services first-hand.

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Logan and his Dad, 2000

When his father had his first heart attack in 2000, Logan was on a Navy ship off the coast of San Diego heading to Hawaii. That’s when he received the official Red Cross emergency message that his father was seriously ill. Within hours, he was on a helicopter headed home to see his dad.

“The ship that I’m on, at the time, does not stop and turn around,” said Logan, “Had I not been able to get that helo, I probably would’ve had to wait 10-12 days to cross the Pacific and get to the Hawaiian Islands. Without the Red Cross message, I wouldn’t have been able to get that helo ride out. The Red Cross trumps everything. It’s a crucial portion of going on emergency leave. It’s like the golden ticket!”

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Logan Weaver receiving an award on the USS La Salle, 1991

That was one of five Red Cross emergency messages Logan would eventually receive over his 20 year career in the US Navy. Now, as a veteran, Logan feels that he has the opportunity to give back to the organization that provided him so much support in his time of need. As an Armed Forces volunteer and Disaster responder, Logan provides moral support for service members returning from or leaving for deployment and helps the Red Cross set up shelters in times of disaster.

“I find that the Red Cross is a blessing to me,” said Logan, “I’m able to give back, and I’m able to pay forward all at the same time.”

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Logan Weaver, proud Red Cross volunteer

So this Veteran’s Day, consider supporting a local charity like the Red Cross. Whether it’s through volunteering like Logan, donating blood, or by giving a financial donation, your generosity allows the Red Cross to provide vital services to service members and their families right here in Central California.

Jessica Piffero,
Regional Communications Director