MILITARY — OHIO RIVER VALLEY AMERICAN RED CROSS
For 100 years, the Ohio River Valley American Red Cross has provided comfort and support to members of the United States military, veterans and their families. We continue today serving 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to support our military during times of crisis and provide respite and a touch of home while overseas.
The Scioto County Chapter American Red Cross was formed in 1917 in order to aid men wounded on the battlefield and help finance the War Relief Fund. A nonprofit agency, it has a long history of providing relief to individuals affected by war and natural disaster. The American Red Cross and the local chapter have played an enormously important historical role in supporting American troops in the two world wars and in ensuing conflicts. The Red Cross restated its mission in 1922, dedicating itself first to military welfare.
Every man, woman and child in the community was urged to do their part assisting with the war effort. A sewing room opened in the Seel Building on Second Street, a group of high school girls formed a Red Cross Corps and a canteen operated in the Selby building next door to the bus station where volunteers offered free lunch for soldiers on their way home or off to camps. (PHOTO) Canteen workers also fed and entertained troops bound for the war when they came through at the old Norfolk and Western Railway Depot Co. Volunteers included nurses aids, Canteen Corps, Motor Corps, and Staff Aids-all trained by the Red Cross. Volunteers met in groups and made ditty bags containing personal articles for servicemen and were responsible for the production of garments, surgical dressings and other medical supplies, comfort kits, and additional items.
During the thirties, the work of the local Chapter was guided by five aims: emergency relief in disaster, farm and home accident prevention program, first aid, service to veterans and public health and home hygiene.
As the forties opened, the United States was involved in another war in Europe. As World War II escalated in late December of 1941, the local Chapter joined the National American Red Cross to raise funds for war relief. Aid programs provided comfort and aid to members of the armed forces and their families. A Red Cross canteen opened in the Selby building adjoining the new bus station and furnished soldiers, sailors and marines in route home for Christmas or off to camp. (PHOTO) Hot coffee, donuts, sandwiches and apples were ready when the soldiers stopped in between bus schedules or at the railway station. Volunteers assisting the Red Cross work at the canteen included churches, board members from the Fresh Air Camp, Girl Scout board members, and Twig 9 of Mercy Hospital. Medical care for those who were ill was also available. The Volunteer Corps filled 720 ditty bags and 500 knitters made 2,191 garments. Nearly every family in America had a member who had either served as a Red Cross volunteer made contributions of money or blood, or was a recipient of Red Cross services.
Then with the bombing of Pearl Harbor the Red Cross went into full swing. It was reported in the Portsmouth Daily Times that women in the community stormed the Red Cross office demanding that they be given something to do to help their country and the local Chapter went into full wartime operation. According to the February 22, 1942 edition of The Portsmouth Daily Times, “The work of setting up the wartime regime fell largely on the shoulders of volunteer chairman, Mrs. Frank Blood and her co-chairman Mrs. Ross M. Gault”. These ladies divided the work of the production department into the war relief. The Production Corps included relief for any invaded part of the United States or her Allied countries and included the production of men’s, women’s and children’s sweaters, beanies, socks, muffler afghans, layettes, men’s and children’s pajamas, hospital bed shirts, woolen dresses, woolen shirts, boys’ shirts, boys’ overalls, women’s nightgowns and convalescent robes.
The work of the hundreds of Red Cross volunteers did not go unrecognized by the local Chapter. In 1946 six volunteer who each gave 5,000 hours of service between January 1, 1940 and the close of World War II, received the highest award to be made by the local Chapter, the “Red Cross World War II Volunteer Service Ribbon Bar” with a gold stripe.
In 1950 President Harry Truman declared the need for emergency services in time of disaster and the local Chapter began building up their services to be prepared for any type of disaster. Programs included the Motor Corps, the Canteen Corps, nurses’ aides and staff aides. The Scioto County Chapter joined eight other Chapters in the tri-state area to develop a mutual aid plan in case of local war disasters. The Red Cross was designated to organize training for nurses’ aides and first aid personnel in civil defense, to manage blood bank centers and to provide food, shelter, clothing and medical care in natural disasters to families and individuals. The Chapter was also responsible for providing volunteers for war time disaster and to coordinate their plan with that of the civil defense in the event of war. Since Scioto County was more likely to be faced with air attacks than any other county in the Ohio Valley, the Scioto County Red Cross surveyed area buildings to determine how many refugees they could handle in case of a war.
During the fifties, volunteers continued to be the key to the success of the local Chapter and training courses were regularly offered to those wishing to volunteer. Although the Gray Ladies provided non-medical care, they underwent a rigorous training process, provided by registered nurses, doctors and psychiatrists as well as by the Red Cross who presented the Red Cross policies. The Gray Ladies continued working at the Chillicothe Veterans Hospital and made weekly trips to bring cigarettes to patients, help entertain patients and write their letters. The local Gray Ladies were honored for their service by the VA and the hundreds of hours they gave to our veterans.
(PHOTO) The Red Cross helped a local couple, Pfc. Sterling Crum and his wife Faye in the late fifties. Mrs. Crum was in a local hospital for nine months and received 92 pints of blood during her illness. Her husband Pfc. Crum was assigned to Frankfort Germany and received a telegram eight hours after arriving about his wife’s critical illness. The Red Cross verified the message and Prc. Crum was sent home on a thirty day leave. He was then assigned to Ft. Dix, N.J. for reassignment overseas. Since his wife was still in critical condition the Army assignee him to Ft. Hayes, Columbus after the Red Cross verified the fact for the Army. The Red Cross investigations and verifications made it possible for Pfc. Crum to obtain leave to visit his wife every weekend during the eight months of her illness. . Some cases involved illness and death in the family while others were concerns about their family’s welfare.
The Sixties saw an increase of 150 percent in service to military families in Scioto County due to the Vietnam War which spanned from 1965 to 1972.
A unique service was introduced with a newsletter mailed once a month to Portsmouth Area Servicemen in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. The Scioto County Red Cross initiated “Operation Christmas” and annually prepared ditty bags for our servicemen in Vietnam to bring a touch of home to servicemen at Christmas.
During the early Seventies, the Chapter continued to respond to the Vietnam crisis, helping families communicate with their loved ones in the military and providing assistance. The Chapter broke a record by preparing 636 ditty bags that were then sent to our servicemen. A new service, “Voices from Home”, continued to be a popular method for family members sending taped greetings and Polaroid snapshots to their loved ones overseas during Christmas. The local Chapter continued to support our servicemen and their families by helping to arrange emergency leaves or request leave extensions, financial assistance and counseling in personal and family problems. Portsmouth High School students helped the Red Cross by manning a booth on the esplanade soliciting signatures on petitions urging North Vietnam to observe the Geneva prisoner-of-war convention. The students collected 3,392 signatures.
The chapter along with all Red Cross chapters responded to the needs following the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Scioto and Pike county communities were ready to support the men and women of our armed forces. A group of area businesses partnered with the local chapter and organized “Scioto County Cares” to show their support of those affected by the devastation. More than $15,000 was raised during the event held on the Roy Rogers Esplanade. Following the attack on 911, the chapter again entered a wartime mode to support troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. The Red Cross Gift Basket Program grew from 2 boxes in 1999 to more than 65 huge boxes in 2002 filled with candy, puzzles, playing cards, games, Christmas cards, shaving gear and more. (PHOTO) Area students collected items and prepared comfort kits for our servicemen. Blood drives continued to be held throughout the community and at local schools to meet the needs of our servicemen. Students from Scioto County Joint Vocational School raised nearly $2,400 from a “Walk-a-thon”
Today, the Ohio River Valley American Red Cross continues to be committed to members of the U.S. military, its veterans and their families. As Red Cross services continue to grow and develop, the chapter is meeting the needs of a changing military and expanding services to veterans. Red Cross support of military members and their families enhances morale and contributes to increased operational capability in several ways. Service men and women are eligible for three types of assistance beginning on the first day of enlistment: Emergency Services, Service to Military Families and Service to Military and Veterans Hospitals.
Today, the Red Cross continues providing support to hospitalized U.S. military personnel with dedicated volunteers through service to the Armed Forces.
During World War I, American Red Cross volunteer services faced rapid expansion. To delineate the lines of service, the Red Cross employed a color coding system for the uniforms and service pins.
Although the hospital corps’ gray uniform with white collar and cuffs was not one of the more vibrant shades, the volunteers wearing it were affectionately known as the Gray Ladies to the wounded soldiers. The corps, composed primarily of women volunteers, acted as hostesses and provided recreational services to patients, many of whom were injured during World War I. Although their official name was changed to a more manageable Hospital and Recreation Corps in 1934, it was the Gray Lady moniker that resonated through the years and in 1947, after World War II, the name was officially changed to the Gray Lady service.
Local Gray Ladies
The Gray Ladies, worked and assisted at Chillicothe Veteran’s Hospital year round providing entertainment for the servicemen, ward parties, picnics and dances. While the government provided food, shelter, clothing and medical care for the veterans, the Red Cross provided the “extras”. During the Christmas season, decorations were provided for the hospital as well as Christmas stockings for the hospital’s more than 220 patients. They also provided gifts for the hospital’s gift shop so the hospitalized veterans could select gifts for their family and friends.