Each week, service members, contractors or military families living overseas who need more comprehensive medical care than their duty station or remote operational location can provide, arrive at the Andrews Air Force Base in Morningside, Maryland.
While there, military families find Red Cross volunteers like Sridhar Srinivasan and his wife, Becky Callahan, who visit the base every week, to help patients who arrive on the Department of the Defense’s aeromedical evacuation missions.
You’re dealing with people who are having their worst day. You’re supporting them — providing them a meal, a snack and the comfort of home. It’s a little thing but we think it helps,” said Sridhar.
Patients arriving have a wide range of injuries from mild to severe and are usually exhausted after their long journey. Unfortunately, this base is just a stop for them, where they can receive medical care before continuing to their final destination, which may be a military facility or hospital stateside. While patients are routed through Landstuhl, Germany, their original location could have been Africa, the Middle East or Europe. The multiple stops along with the severity of their medical conditions are exhausting and grueling for many military patients and their families.
“It’s all about making people feel welcome and that they’re normal. Everyone here has been through something,” Becky said. Sridhar says that this is often the first time that these patients have not returned to the states in a long time. “It’s their first night back and things might be challenging. We like to be here no matter what. We want these patients to know that somebody cares,” he said.
Both Sridhar and Becky love volunteering in this capacity, and especially, together. “I knew if I ever wanted to spend quality time with my wife, I’d have to become a Red Cross volunteer too,” Sridhar jokes.
Many times, because of weather, scheduling conflicts or other unforeseen circumstances, flights can come in at any time of the day. This is why the Red Cross role is so critical on base and why Red Cross volunteers need to be flexible and ready to support when called upon.
Master Sgt. Darrell Brantley, who oversees military operations at the center, says that despite the logistical challenges, the Red Cross almost always has volunteers at the center, ready to go the extra mile. “We love the American Red Cross. We couldn’t do this mission without volunteers like Sridhar and Becky,” he said.
If you’d like to learn about volunteer opportunities to help service members, veterans and their families, click here.