The American Red Cross has helped to provide assistance to members of America's military and their families since the 1860s, when Clara Barton was given the title of "Angel of the Battlefield" as she provided care to servicemen.
After the Civil War, Barton was authorized by President Lincoln to write letters to the family members to identify the fate of the missing soldiers to provide closure to the grieving parents, family and friends. Ever since, Clara Barton and the Red Cross provide emergency services to the Armed Forces.
One of these services includes objective, timely, confidential, factual, complete and verified reports on emergency situations between members of the armed forces and their families 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Family members can send a message through the Red Cross to their relatives whether deployed or in training, anywhere around the world. These emergency messages can include but are not limited to birth of a child, death in the family, or notification of a fatal illness of a family member.
From July 2011 to September 2011, the American Red Cross of Southwestern New York assisted 36 service members in Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties. Seventeen of those were emergency communications.
Along with delivering messages to military personnel, the Red Cross, in partnership with military aid societies, offer financial aid to eligible applicants to help with costs for emergency travel, burials, etc. Financial aid is available to family members when emergency circumstances limit funds due to their serviceperson being away on active duty, as well as to veterans. Financial aid could include travel, lodging and food costs and can be used for travel expenses of a service member's immediate family to funeral services of a service member killed on duty, utility assistance and emergency loans.
During the holidays, the Red Cross acknowledges that many servicemen and -women are stationed away from their families. Every year the Red Cross organizes the Holiday Mail for Heroes program. For the past five years the Red Cross has partnered with Pitney Bowes, a mail-stream technology company, to continue this holiday tradition that allows Americans to send their best wishes to members of the armed forces.
The Red Cross aims to be of service to all members of the armed services: active members, veterans, reserves, the National Guard and their family members. The Red Cross services are available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
For more information on American Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces, visit www.redcross.org or visit local American Red Cross of Southwestern NY offices in Jamestown, Olean or Wellsville. The American Red Cross of SWNY is a proud United Way agency.