Daily Life of a Marine Mom

A Piece of My Heart is home from Iraq


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Well, Eric heads back out to his home base in California on Saturday and my heart is already breaking. The past few weeks having him at home has spoiled me rotten! Right now he has spent the last four days over in Ohio with his father and I miss him a lot. Hopefully he will be home tonight so we can spend a little more time together before he leaves again. At least he won't be going back to Iraq anytime soon so I can breathe a little easier. Although according to him ... he likes being over there doing his job! Makes me want to smack him as well as cheer him on! Such conflicting emotions envelope the mothers of dedicated Marines all over the world I am sure. For now I want to pass on a little info that I think all military families should know.

For one .. a fellow blogger has sent me a link to an award winning story that I think everyone should read. I have to warn you, it took me so long to post it because it is so heartbreaking, especially for those of us that feel like the Marine Corps are our families. I have posted a link to it under Tributes (see the list to the right ... coming soon) but here is a link here also: Final Salute

As the mother of a Marine I run acoss (and receive in email) a lot of information that is important to know if you are immediate family of a member of the military. The inofrmation below definitely falls into that category!

Armed Forces Emergency Services (important info for Military families)

The American Red Cross is chartered by Congress to relay messages between the military and family members. When you contact the American Red Cross try to contact the Red Cross chapter nearest to where the death/emergency happened or your local Red Cross chapter. Many recruiters and the military give parents/spouses the 800 number. When you call the 800 number they have to call the local chapter to have the local chapter verify the emergency. The caseworkers at the 800 number will not verify the emergency themselves. The message will be sent quicker if the local chapter receives the call first.

Time is always a factor, especially when a family is trying to plan a funeral and trying to get their military personnel home for a funeral. So the next thing you need to know is the time factor when sending an AFES message. This is how long it may take your military service person to receive an emergency message.

If your military service person is:

in the U.S. -- up to 24 hours (possibly longer)is aboard a ship -- 24 to 48 hours (possibly longer)is stationed overseas or in a combat zone -- 24 to 72 hours (possibly longer)

***Special note for National Guard and Reserve units activated and deployed --- Please try to have an emergency contact phone number for the unit available when contacting the Red Cross. If the Red Cross AFES caseworker has to track down a unit contact number it can add hours to how long it takes the message to reach the service person.***
It is possible that you will receive a call from your military service person in less than two hours. It all depends on where they are and how easy it is to locate the service person. This is what happens when you call the Red Cross:

1) You will be asked for your name, address and phone number and your relationship to the service person.

2) You will be asked the nature of the emergency.

3) You will be asked for the name of the person involved in the emergency or the name of he person who died. You will be asked what that persons relationship to the service person is. If the person involved in the emergency or person who died has helped in the upbringing of the service person or the service member has lived with the person be sure to tell this to the Red Cross AFES caseworker. Also, if the service person has a close relationship with the person please tell the AFES caseworker. This can make a difference in if a service person gets emergency leave or not.

4) If it is an emergency you will be asked the name of the hospital and the name of the attending physician. If it is a death you will be asked the place of death and the cause of death. You will need either the name of the attending physician or the funeral home and funeral director. If the person died in a hospital the name of the hospital is sometimes enough, the nursing supervisor can verify a death. If it is a large hospital be sure to state which part of the hospital the death occurred in (ICU, surgical recovery, emergency room, hospice). You will be asked if the funeral arrangements have been made or if they are pending. Please have phone numbers available if you have them (if not the local Red Cross chapter should be able to find the phone numbers).

5) You will be asked your service person's name, rank, social security number, birth date and unit address.

6) You will be asked if your service person is aware of the situation. You may be asked if you request the presence of a chaplain when your service person is notified. (If you are not asked and you think it would be best to have a chaplain present, please tell the AFES caseworker you want a chaplain to be there when your service person is notified)

Some other things you should know:

Emergency leave cannot be guaranteed by the Red Cross. It is up to your service person to request leave. It is up to the commanding officer to grant leave. Commanding officers do not have to grant emergency leave and in some cases will not grant emergency leave. If a unit is deployed overseas or is in a combat zone leave may not be granted. All emergency messages to the American Red Cross must be verified. This may sound intrusive but a message will not be sent until it is verified. Please let the attending physician or funeral director know that you have military personnel in the family. They will then be prepared to provide verification when the American Red Cross calls.

Because of new privacy laws you may have to sign a release form before a physician, nurse, hospital or funeral director will speak to an AFES caseworker. Please sign release forms as soon as possible.

The American Red Cross does not provide money for transportation nor do they loan money to military personnel. However, the Red Cross will help military personnel obtain loans for travel expenses through the military relief societies. The loans are repaid to the relief societies through payroll deduction. AFES can send good messages too. The American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services is there to help the families and the military personnel.

***Note for expectant mothers -

1) Currently AFES can send messages concerning births up to one month before the estimated date of delivery. The military is making an effort to grant leave to servicemen deployed to Iraq so that they can be home for the births of their children. The serviceman's command may request a verification of estimated date of delivery from an OB. The verification is obtained though the American Red Cross AFES. You may have to sign a release form so that AFES can verify this information. If there is a chance of C-section or there are complications your OB or nurse practitioner needs to tell the Red Cross when the caseworker calls to verify. Please ask your OB/Nurse practitioner's office about privacy release forms well before your estimated date of delivery. ********

Armed Forces Emergency Services are available 24 hours a day. Most Red Cross chapters have caseworkers on call after regular business hours. Call the Red Cross immediately. The sooner your call is received the sooner your military service person will get the message. If you have questions about AFES please feel free to contact me at: usnbratz@aol.com

Julie Callahan
Volunteer AFES Caseworker
American Red Cross of the Heartland
Bloomington, Illinois

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