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Knowing What the Red Cross Can Do for You

picture of Red Cross band on the arm of a service member

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joshua Mann

Many members of the reserve and National Guard don't know about available Red Cross services until they are mobilized. Knowing in advance that communication links, access to financial assistance and counseling will be available in an emergency brings peace of mind to members of the military and their families.

Similarly, knowing that Red Cross services are available to inactive service members and their families can provide a safety net in times of need.

During Times of Mobilization and Deployment

Being in the reserve and National Guard creates challenges for you — and your family. Military life, in fact, often creates unforeseen hardships.

The American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services helps community-based military members (reserve and National Guard) and their families cope with separation and other special needs related to service in the armed forces.

Reserve and National Guard members and their families are entitled to the same valuable Red Cross emergency services as full-time active duty military personnel.

The Red Cross is available to help you:

  • Stay in touch with loved ones. The Red Cross worldwide emergency communications network operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Red Cross sends emergency messages regarding the death or serious illness of a family member, other family emergencies or the birth of a child.
  • Get verification of emergency leave information. The Red Cross provides fast, reliable information to help make decisions regarding emergency leaves, deferments, compassionate reassignments and dependency discharges.
  • Secure emergency financial assistance. The Red Cross collaborates with the military aid societies in providing financial assistance when an urgent personal or family crisis arises — that is, when a service member may need financial assistance for emergency travel, burial of a loved one or urgent health and welfare needs such as food and shelter.
  • Obtain counseling, information, referrals and other social needs. In addition to having Red Cross workers available to service members for confidential problem solving, reserve and National Guard members are entitled to a variety of health and supportive services from the military and other sources. The Red Cross can help members understand these referrals and government benefits.
  • Receive veterans services to which you are entitled. The Red Cross represents veterans and their families who seek compensation awards from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Red Cross volunteers also serve hospitalized veterans at VA medical centers.

Before Leaving on Deployment

Before reservists or National Guard members leave on deployment, they should provide key family members with several important pieces of information to assist the Red Cross in case of an emergency.

Information to expedite communication with military loved ones:

  • Social Security number of the service member.
  • Rank/rating.
  • Branch of service (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard).
  • Military address where deployed.
  • Home base unit.
  • Local Red Cross chapter.

Emergency Communications Services

When a military family experiences a crisis, the Red Cross is there to help. The Red Cross relays urgent messages containing accurate, factual, complete and verified descriptions of the emergency to service members stationed anywhere in the world, including on ships at sea and at embassies and remote locations.

Red Cross emergency communications services keep military personnel in touch with their families following the death or serious illness of an immediate family member, the birth of a service member's child or grandchild, and at other times when a family faces emergencies.

Wherever their military service takes them, service members know that the Red Cross will deliver notification in times of an emergency at home. Even if the service member receives that information via an e-mail or phone call from home, Red Cross-verified information assists commanding officers with making a decision regarding emergency leave. Without this verification, the service member may not be able to come home during a family crisis.

Information and Referral Services

The Red Cross offers confidential services to all military personnel — active duty, National Guard and reserves — and their families. Counseling, guidance, information, referrals and other social services are available through a worldwide network of chapters and offices on military installations.

As more National Guard and reserve units are called to full-time duty status, counseling has become increasingly important to prepare the civilian-based military members and their families for the period of activation.

Because members of the National Guard and reserve typically live in civilian neighborhoods, they and their families frequently have difficulty accessing much-needed military-related social services.

How to Contact the Red Cross

Members of the National Guard and reserves, retirees and civilians: Call your local Red Cross chapter, which is listed in local telephone books or on the Red Cross website.

Additional Resources

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