Army National Guard sendoff includes Red Cross volunteers who can relate

By Justin Kern – American Red Cross

Mark Matuszak could see a bit of himself in every family member cheering on, hugging and giving teary goodbyes to their beloved service members at an Army National Guard soldier sendoff last week in Green Bay.

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American Red Cross Northeast Wisconsin Chapter board members Phil Zubella and Sarah Dressel (both at front) joined a sendoff for soldiers recently in Green Bay.

Matuszak’s son, Dan, is a U.S. Army Green Beret. It wasn’t long ago that Dan shipped off to the Philippines for military assignment – leaving Mark and family to carry understandable concern back here in Wisconsin during Dan’s deployment.

Knowing that important yet sometimes difficult role military families hold, Matuszak said he knew the value in joining fellow American Red Cross board members and volunteers in support of approximately 400 soldiers and their families at an event Nov. 29 at the Lambeau Field Atrium.

“I can relate to the family and the folks that are here, understand how deployment is going to affect their family,” Matuszak said. “Not seeing [a deployed family member] hurts, but you know they’re doing it for the right reasons and the right cause. It’s a noble cause.”

Matuszak was one of approximately 15 Red Cross board members, volunteers and staff who joined in the warm community sendoff for Wisconsin Army National Guard soldiers from the Appleton-based 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team headed out to Afghanistan.

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A spread of snacks and information for service members and their families provided by the Red Cross.

The Red Cross was one in a group of organizations in attendance to join in the sendoff, as part of its Service to the Armed Forces mission. Red Cross volunteers and board members served coffee, donuts, bananas and string cheese provided by Kwik Trip, along with offering information on resources during and long after the soldiers’ deployment. (Click here to view and share from a collection of Red Cross photos from the event on Facebook.)

Command Sgt. Maj. Rafael Conde, Wisconsin Army National Guard, took time in his remarks during the event to recognize the family and friends in attendance, and listed off supported organizations such as the Red Cross.

“We can’t do what we do, this mission, without your support,” Conde said.


Are you looking for a new way to support our military service members and families? On this page you find out how you can play an important role as a volunteer or supporter of our Service to the Armed Forces program.


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Army National Guard leaders received a Wisconsin flag from outgoing Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. The Green Bay deployment event was the largest of its kind in recent years.

The event was the largest combined send-off for northeast Wisconsin in recent years. Only about 20 percent of the soldiers had previously deployed. According to a military release, the unit is “comprised of teachers, students, electricians, engineers, computer IT specialists, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, welders, auto mechanics, craftsmen” from across Wisconsin but predominately from the Fox Valley and Green Bay.

For Matuszak, that group also included a co-worker at Great Northern Corporation hired a few years ago, and another co-worker’s son. As a board member volunteering at the event, Matuszak was able to talk with people and families he knew, as well as others with whom he shares a military connection.

“I understand what’s facing them, so it’s humbling for me to watch what they’re about to go through,” he said.

The projected return for the soldiers is late fall of 2019.

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‘Lean on Me’

By Barbara Behling, Communications Officer, American Red Cross  

Major General Dunbar shares his appreciation with Red Cross volunteers. We provided beverage, tissues and even diapers to attendees.

Major General Dunbar shares his appreciation with Red Cross volunteers. We provided beverage, tissues and even diapers to attendees.

April 2, 2014 –  It was an honor to represent the American Red Cross at the Troop Send-off ceremony for the Wisconsin Army National Guard – 121st Field Artillery Alpha Battery Unit .  For 79 brave men it was their next step before hitting the ground at Fort Bliss and then shipping off to Afghanistan.

The air inside the 128th Air National Guard Refueling Wing was still. The faces of grandparents were stoic as their grandsons “go off to war” as one gentlemen shared with me. “I’m now back to changing diapers to help the family.”  Many times the wives of soldiers rocked one baby on their chest while holding their spouse tight while another child hung onto their legs.

The ceremony was poignant with a military band playing and the dignitaries standing in front of the largest American flag I have ever witnessed.  Major General Dunbar spoke from the heart, “It’s a bittersweet day to send soldiers into combat zones for a year. What happens at home continues. Take the pride in your eyes, the confidence in each other and lean on each other”

The American Red Cross is proud to support our active duty members and their families around the clock – around the globe. Each member of this unit has received special  briefings on what to do and who to call in case of emergencies. The American Red Cross will answer the call.

Any military member and their family can “lean on us”  by contacting their local Red Cross office or by calling 877-272-7337 for support.

Congratulations Chuck Patzer!

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Chuck Patzer, left, with Adrianne Benson at the VA Home at King, volunteer appreciation lunch.

By Terri Osterberg, Service to Armed Forces, Public Relations Volunteer

Chuck Patzer, has accepted a new volunteer position as the American Red Cross Representative at The Wisconsin Veterans Home at King.  In this role, he will provide volunteer activity leadership between the American Red Cross and the VA Home at King. Being a U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran himself, he is bringing his knowledge of military issues and passion for helping others together in this new exciting role!  He is also a Disaster Action Team member in the Green Lake, Marquette, Waushara and Waupaca county area and supports the Heroes Musicales event in Wild Rose.

Chuck has been actively volunteering at the VA Home at King  for the past eight years.  He has been visiting with members and providing transport to medical appointments for those in need.

He will now be expanding his duties to include recruiting new volunteers to represent the Red Cross and finding the appropriate placement for these volunteers at the VA Home at King.  Chuck will also be representing Red Cross on the facilities Recreation Committee.  This committee is comprised of a number of Veteran Service Groups who meet regularly with the management of the facility to plan activities, address unmet needs and discuss changes and problems the facility is having.

Chuck stated, “Although there are many volunteers from different organizations already in place, there is always a need for more, and Red Cross is a good fit here.”

On Sunday, May 18, The Wisconsin Veterans Home at King is having an Open House from 10am – 3pm.  Red Cross will have a resource booth there, and Chuck hopes to be able to meet and recruit possible volunteers for upcoming help at the Home.

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Our Silent Auction Team Heroes for the 7th Annual Musicales event. (l-r) Chuck and Josephine Patzer, Beth Osicka, Carole Cochrane and Barry Osicka.

Support for Veterans, military members and their families is a year-round program. The Service to Armed Forces team partners with the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain, Michigan, the Wisconsin Veterans Home at Union Grove and the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee. They also support troop send-offs & returns, the Holiday Mail for Heroes program along with offering several courses specifically for military members. The Emergency Communication program provides ‘local’ support for families with loved one serving around the globe during times of emergencies.

To learn more visit redcross.org/SAF.  For volunteer opportunities please contact John Kost, Director Service to the Armed Forces, 920-733-4481, john.kost@redcross.org.

We Can Never Say Thank You Enough!

By Betsy A. Wandtke, Major Gift Officer

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Donors, Board Members and Volunteers at Kodiak Jack’s in Oshkosh.

It’s always our pleasure to be able to thank our donors for giving us the ability to serve others.  In the last couple of weeks of RED CROSS MONTH, we had three Donor Appreciation Events.  They were casual gatherings complete with appetizers and volunteer interaction.  Not only were they successful in saying thank you, but were a lot of fun to boot!

Our attending donors were able to meet board members, staff members and most importantly, the volunteers that serve our organization.  The pictures that were shown and explained, were mostly regarding “Superstorm Sandy”.  Our volunteers were also able to discuss what an ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle) was and how versatile they are, along with other mysteries about how the Red Cross gets things done in the field.

The donors and many of the rest of us were riveted to the stories of survival and the ability of those affected to overcome any situation with the help of a “friend”.  The Red Cross volunteers are those “friends” that show up to do whatever needs to be done.  They are worth their weight in gold!!

The donors also asked questions about SAF (Services to the Armed Forces), Blood Services and other aspects of the American Red Cross.  Our board members and staff were there to answer those questions and more.

We would like to thank Big Tomatoes and Los Banditos in Green Bay, Mark’s East Side in Appleton and Kodiak Jack’s in Oshkosh for their hospitality and donations to make these events happen.

We also would like to thank the volunteers, board members and staff members that were fully engaged in this endeavor.  We could not have done it without them!!

Westfield School District Hosts “Hats on for HEROES” for Local American Red Cross

By Vicki Jenks, American Red Cross Disaster Volunteer and Board Member

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(Pictured left to right) Jon Brakebush, Lexi Brakebush, Judy Brakebush, Vicki Jenks, & John Eyerly, Superintendent Westfield School District

On Friday, March 15th, the Westfield School District assisted their local American Red Cross by hosting “Hats on for HEROES”.  A simple fundraiser in which a student pays $1 for the privilege of wearing a hat for the day, “Hats on for HEROES”—a first-time event, was extremely successful. 

All the funds will be utilized locally in Marquette County for Local Disaster Relief and Service to the Armed Forces. 

The most common disasters are RESIDENTIAL FIRES.  Every 9 minutes in the United States, a Red Cross Disaster Worker responds to a fire.  Due to the generosity of the American people, the Red Cross is able to provide temporary shelter, food, clothing, shoes, bedding, linens, and personal hygiene items.  They can also facilitate the replacement of prescription medications and eyewear.  But perhaps the most important gift Disaster Workers provide is INVALUABLE EMOTIONAL SUPPORT. 

Service to Armed Forces is a new addition to the HEROES fundraiser this year.  Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, the Red Cross relays urgent messages containing accurate, factual, complete and verified descriptions of the emergency to service members stationed anywhere in the world, including on ships at sea and at embassies and remote locations.

The Red Cross provides emergency financial assistance, volunteers in area VA Hospitals, and sees that military members arrive home for funerals and births.  This “personal touch”, again, is due to the incredible generosity of citizens like the Westfield students, staff and administration. 

Brakebush Brothers, well known as a philanthropic corporate citizen, stepped up to also become a HERO and facilitated the new Red Cross relationship with the Westfield School District. 

“Down the street, across the country, around the world—the Red Cross is there”, because of students like those who attend the Westfield Schools and generous corporations like Brakebush Brothers.

“Songs of the Season” Red Cross Benefit Rousing Success!

IvoryWind at the Steakhouse 024On Saturday, December 8th, Ivory Wind with Strings held an immensely successful candlelight Christmas concert, “Songs of the Season”, at the First Presbyterian Church in Weyauwega.

This third annual event raised over $2,000 for local disaster action team and fire prevention programs, as part of the HEROES for the American Red Cross program.

New to HEROES this year is the integration of “Service to the Armed Forces” (SAF)  which ensures that service members, veterans and their families have worldwide, around-the-clock access to timely and reliable humanitarian services.  The beauty of HEROES is its local impact—in this particular instance—Waupaca County.

Ivory Wind with Strings is a trio of amazingly talented musicians.  Joyce Josie, piano, is the music director at First Presbyterian Church of Weyauwega.  Ann Stevens, flute, has played with the Waupaca Community Orchestra for the past 27 years and works at Aurora Community Services assisting individuals with disabilities.  Laurie Young, violin, joined the group in 2009 and has played violin since age 7.  She is Occupational Therapist and Rehab Director at St. Joseph’s Residence in New London.

Vicki P. Jenks, Board member for the American Red Cross of Northeast Wisconsin and Disaster Action Team volunteer, shared with the large audience that, “Joyce, Ann and Laurie are HEROES for the American Red Cross, but so are YOU.  You are the backbone of your communities.  You step up, time and time again, and DONATE.  The Red Cross could not exist without you!”

Kewaunee Celebrates our Veterans and Active Military

By John Kost, Regional Manager, Service to Armed Forces

Saturday, September 15, representing the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program I was with the community of Kewaunee celebrating Veterans and the work and sacrifices they have given to our country.  It is amazing to be in a close community such as this that takes time to honor and remember those who have served and continue to serve. Local veterans from past and current wars are coming through and sharing their experiences with each other and if you are lucky, as I am, they share a part of their service with you.