Many people aren’t aware that assisting the U.S. military through the Service to Armed Forces (SAF) program is a Red Cross core service. Providing assistance to the armed forces for more than 100 years, the Red Cross takes pride in being that direct link between service members and their families. Emergency communications is one of the activities provided by the SAF program. Just in 2015, over 350,000 emergency communications were provided to more than 100,000 military members and their families.
Helping the Helper: Red Cross Emergency Communications
Army Specialist (SPC) Job Ojo, a native of Nigeria, is a member of the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado. He is also a Red Cross SAF volunteer. Through his work, he has a keen understanding of the importance of emergency communications messages and keeping families connected during military deployments.
While he made sure his family knew how to use the Red Cross emergency communication services in the event of an emergency, he never thought that he would need to experience Red Cross support first hand.
“I’d been trained by the Red Cross, so I knew pretty much about emergency situations and the need to get information to service members,” SPC Ojo said. “I gave the information out to my family members in Nigeria, just in case.”
In January of 2016, Ojo’s adoptive father— “the one who sent me to school,” as Ojo described him— was on the way to the Federal University of Technology in Minna, Nigeria where he served as a guest lecturer. As he made his journey early in the morning, his car struck a truck parked on the roadside. The passenger side where Ojo’s father was sitting absorbed the brunt of the impact. He suffered serious head injuries and died a little while after the accident.
SPC Ojo’s sister was the first to be notified. She immediately began passing along the news to the rest of the family, but she was unsure of how to get in touch with SPC Ojo who was with his unit in the United States.
Luckily, an elder brother remembered information he had been given regarding Red Cross services to use in an emergency. A call was made and a message was sent to unit Command alerting SPC Ojo to the emergency. That message put things in motion allowing him to reconnect with his family. Red Cross documentation also helped secure a zero interest loan from the Army, so that he could return to Nigeria for his father’s funeral.
“I’d just like to extend my appreciation to the Red Cross,” SPC Ojo said. “Getting the message through the Red Cross was helpful because my chain of command was notified and that helped a lot in processing my emergency leave travel to Nigeria to attend the funeral.”
SPC Ojo knew that the SAF program would help if there was a need to connect with his family anywhere in the world. He had worked emergency communication cases for other service members. Now has an even greater appreciation for the Red Cross and the SAF program’s emergency communications services.
Need Help? How to Initiate an Emergency Communication
You can initiate a request for emergency assistance for members of the military currently serving on active duty by contacting our Red Cross Hero Care Center, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Using a computer, smartphone or tablet, you can start a request for services and track progress from anywhere in the world. To speak to a Red Cross Emergency Communications Specialist call: 1-877-272-7337.
A version of this story originally appeared on Colorado Red Cross blog, written by Southeast Colorado Volunteer Kyle Fiehler.
Photo in post: SAF volunteer SPC Job Ojo, holding a photo of his family while standing with SAF managers Barbara Shufelt (l) and Gaby Skovira (r) outside the Southeastern Colorado Red Cross office in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photo by Richard Firth/American Red Cross