Marine Cpl. Caide McLean was at work on base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, when he received a call from the Red Cross letting him know that a gas explosion had destroyed his childhood home in Embden, Maine, more than 1,000 miles away.
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His mom, Tamara McLean, who was home at the time, was severely burned in the accident. During times of crisis, military families across the country, like the McLeans, turn to the Red Cross each day for help.
Lending a hand when military families need it most
More than 280 military families request assistance through the Red Cross Hero Care Network, a free, confidential service, each day.
If an emergency such as a serious illness, death or birth involving an immediate family member takes place, military families can initiate a request for an Emergency Communications Message. Once information has been gathered to craft the message, it is verified then delivered to the service member’s unit. While ultimately it is up to the discretion of a service member’s command as to whether leave is possible, the Hero Care Network provides all the information they can to help in the decision-making process and get the service member home if possible.
When disaster strikes
Caide says that the Red Cross was integral in getting him on the first flight home after the explosion.
“You see this stuff on TV and in movies, but you never imagine it happening to you,” he said. “When it happens, you’re mind-blown, but the Red Cross is there to help.”
When his mom woke up in her hospital room, being there, ready to hold her hand, meant everything to him and to his mom too.
“It was the best thing in my life — to wake up and have the people that mean the most to me, right by my side,” Tamara said. “You’ve lost everything. You’re scared. You’re hurt, and you wake up and see the most important things in your world. The loss, the injury, the rest of it just doesn’t matter. There are no words to describe how good that feels.”
A calming presence amid the storm of uncertainty
Hero Care Network volunteer JoAnne Barsenas recalled barely being able to decipher words through the sobs of one of her callers. The young woman, who had only been married for a few months, was beside herself with fear during her husband’s first deployment.
“I was on the phone with her for almost three hours,” Barsenas said.
“She was scared and alone, away from her family and friends. I set her up with a Navy family ombudsman, who can be a key resource, particularly during deployments,” she said.
Barsenas said a few weeks later, she called back saying that she was feeling much better.
Serving the family at home
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kayla Beamon remembers the delivery of her Red Cross message while aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf. Her mother was undergoing surgery for cancer, and Beamon was needed to support her family back home.
“After the Red Cross notified my command, a swift process was put in place to get me off the ship in a timely manner to make it back home before my mom was out of surgery,” she said. “The smile on her face when she woke up and saw me was priceless.”
Initiating a call to the network
Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, the Hero Care Network allows families to initiate requests for Red Cross emergency assistance. To initiate a request, use: the online self-service tool, the Hero Care App or call 877-272-7337.
To be eligible for assistance, one must be:
- An active-duty member of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard or reserves.
- A civilian employed by or under contract to the DOD and stationed outside the continental United States,
- A cadet or midshipman at a service academy,
- An ROTC cadet on orders for training or
- A merchant marine aboard a U.S. naval ship.
In order to issue a message, you’ll provide specific details for the service member you’re trying to reach, including:
- Full legal name
- Branch of service
- Social security number or date of birth
- Military unit address
- For deployed service members: information about the deployed unit and home base unit
- Name and contact of the immediate family member experiencing the emergency
- Nature of the emergency
- Where the emergency can be confirmed, such as a hospital, funeral home, etc.
For more information on how the American Red Cross supports military families, visit redcross.org/saf. To initiate a request, visit www.redcross.org/get-help/military-families/emergency-communication.html.