Red Cross Delivers Happy, Sad Messages to Troops in
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 5, 1996 Since arriving in Hungary and the former Yugoslavia on Jan. 4, American Red Cross caseworkers have delivered more than 30 birth announcements and hundreds of urgent messages to U.S. service members there.
That's the happy news.
The sad news is Red Cross has also delivered more than 100 messages about severe family illnesses and death. Consequently, Red Cross chapters stateside have verified emergency leave for more than 100 service members to return home to assist their families.
As of March 1, seven Red Cross caseworkers in Bosnia and two in Hungary handled 966 urgent messages from the United States and Europe to troops supporting Operation Joint Endeavor. They've also handled 1,078 making the return trip.
"In the Balkans, Red Cross caseworkers are service members' connection to home," said Red Cross headquarters spokesperson Liz Hall. "We deliver either extremely good or exceptionally bad news serious illness, death, a family crisis, a financial emergency or a joyous birth.
"Red Cross emergency messages provide military personnel and their commanders with fast, reliable information to help them make decisions regarding emergency leave, deferments, compassionate reassignments and dependency discharges," Hall noted.
Red Cross also offers counseling, information, referrals and other social services to military families.
If a family gets into financial straits while a service member is deployed, Red Cross will help either with an interestfree loan or a grant, Hall said. In an emergency, financial assistance is provided for such things as travel, burial assistance or health and welfare needs like food and shelter.
"When the Red Cross delivers an emergency message announcing the birth of a child, we also present a Red Cross birth announcement certificate as a memento," said Gisele McAuliffe, a Red Cross spokesperson in Washington.
"We have stories spanning several generations, for example, where a soldier serving in Vietnam was notified by the Red Cross about the birth of his son and years later, that son, then serving in the armed forces, was also notified by the Red Cross about the birth of his child," McAuliffe said.
The trek of the first birth announcement began at a small Red Cross chapter in the industrial city of New Braunfels, Texas, on the Guadalupe river, 32 miles northeast of San Antonio. From there, it traveled to Red Cross headquarters in Washington, where it was transmitted to caseworkers in Hungary.
They handed it to Army personnel who carried the message to a young soldier with the 325th Airborne Combat Team on duty near Tuzla, Bosnia.
It was a joyous message. Army Spc. Billy B. Modgling's wife, Shawna, had given birth to a baby girl Kerstin Lynn.
The Red Cross got the message to him on Jan. 25, before Kerstin was a day old.
"I'm so glad I had the Red Cross' help when I needed it," Shawna Modgling said. "I'm glad to know someone is there for me in case I need to get in touch with my husband again."