This Red Cross Month, we are celebrating the volunteers and services that make our organization special. Throughout the month, we’ll bring you stories of help and hope, bringing to light the people who unselfishly give their time to further the Red Cross mission. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Stephen Peth who has volunteered with our Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) division for the last 13 years. Read on to find out why Steve became a Red Cross volunteer and how he helps wounded warriors in their time of need.
Serving in the Military
In 1967, Steve joined the Army where his first operational assignment was in Vietnam as a medical evacuation (DUSTOFF) helicopter pilot, a role that is credited as one of the most dangerous jobs of the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, 11 months into his tour as a DUSTOFF pilot, this proved to be true when Steve’s helicopter was hit 39 times, putting a hole in his arm and another in his boot. This mission earned Steve the Purple Heart in addition to his previous valor in combat awards: the Silver Star Medal, one of the three highest honors a service member can receive, and two Distinguished Flying Crosses. He recovered after six months of rehabilitation and went on to accumulate 3600 flight hours and many honors before he retired from the Army in 1992.
Helping Wounded Warriors
As someone who grew up in a patriotic household, Steve wanted to continue to serve his country after his retirement from the private sector in 2006.
“I just got to thinking about what I was seeing on the news with all these people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. I started my career serving patients as a medical evacuation pilot in Vietnam — and I’ve been a patient myself,” said Steve.
So as a former wounded warrior, he looked to the Red Cross and to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. for opportunities to give back. He became a Red Cross volunteer at the military hospital in 2006 and continued when the Army hospital moved to become the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
In his volunteer role, Steve serves both the staff and the patients. He helps the staff by doing things like putting away linens and equipment, which frees up time for staff to work with patients. And he sits with patients during their free time to learn more about their stories.
“The patients just really open up. And that’s, I think, cathartic for them to be able to talk about themselves and about what’s happened. And you can just see they really lighten up when they know that somebody’s interested in their story and interested in what happened to them,” Steve said.
His service also has a broader impact on the caregivers of wounded warriors who appreciate the time that he and other volunteers spend at the hospital. This appreciation and support from caregivers, hospital staff and patients is what inspires him to continue to volunteer.
“You’re around patients that are severely wounded. And if you can bring a smile to their face in one way or another, that makes me feel good. And the appreciation expressed by the staff, makes me want to volunteer even more,” Steve said.
Become a Volunteer
Interested in becoming an SAF volunteer? Reach out to your local Red Cross chapter for opportunities today.