With Michelle’s departure, I’m serving as the interim executive director and I have enjoyed getting to know many of the volunteers in the East Tennessee Chapter already. In my normal day to day duties, I deal with items like the budget, bill payment, fleet and facility operations, as well as work with our executive team, so I don’t always see our mission in action on a regular basis. I recently had an experience though that caused me to pause and reflect on how important our working with the military and their families can be.
I have an almost 21 year-old son named Alex who is majoring in engineering at Tennessee Tech. The summer before last, he decided to join the Tennessee National Guard as part of the ROTC program at Tech. He successfully completed basic training and advanced infantry training at Ft. Benning two summers ago (one of the proudest moments of my life). He has settled into a regular routine with school, monthly drill and all is normal. A couple of weeks ago, he was in town after a night drill at the Smyrna base where they were doing physicals, updating paperwork and completely other mandatory duties.
If you’ve been around the Red Cross for a while, you have probably heard people talk about their Red Cross story. Even though I have worked for the Red Cross for 10 years, I have never been in a position to truly understand how valuable our emergency communications and other services for military families can be.
My approached me following drill in Smyrna and said “Dad, we had to update our paperwork this weekend and you are my sole beneficiary if I get killed while serving or deployed. I wanted to make sure you won’t have to pay for my burial if something happens.”
Not exactly the type of thing you expect to hear or think about on a Sunday afternoon. To say the least, his words impacted me heavily and caused me to reflect on how many military families in our community and around the country have that conversation on a regular basis. I truly did not fully grasp the sacrifice our military families make until I heard the words come out of my son’s mouth. Later that evening as I reflected on our conversation, I gave a great deal of thought to the incredible work our Service to the Armed Forces volunteers and staff do with pre and post deployment briefings and the many other services the Red Cross provides. It is great to know the Red Cross is there for those families, to bring their service members home during life events, to do workshops such as Coping with Deployment for families and to facilitate emergency loans just to mention a few.
Even though my son is 90 miles away in college, it dawned on me that I am a military family and the organization I work for is here to support my son and my family. What a great feeling to know you’re not alone. I want to thank those selfless volunteers and staff who give their time to serve military families like mine. You will have my family’s gratitude forever. Thank you for what you do. You make a difference.
Regional Chief Operating Officer