Welcome Rich Seymour

rich-seymourWe’re proud to announce that Rich Seymour has joined the Wisconsin team as our Service to the Armed Forces Director! Just retiring from the Army after 30 years, Rich is excited to start a career where he will continue to care for service members, veterans and their families.

During his illustrious work with the Army, he completed multiple deployments and attained the rank of Command Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted rank in the Army. Throughout his career he became familiar with and utilized the Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces.

“I continuously used Red Cross as a tool to help the soldiers and families that I had under my leadership. I can give you hundreds of stories where Red Cross services contributed to the morale and welfare of the Armed Forces members.”

Originally from Baraboo, Wisconsin, he’s called many places “home” over the years -the Republic of Panama, South Korea, and various places stateside. Along for the ride have been his wife and two sons – and his dogs, too.

We could not be more excited to have Rich on the Red Cross team and back in his home state of Wisconsin!

If you’d like to get involved with the Red Cross, click here.

To look at Red Cross employment opportunities, click here.

Dying Mother Saves Son from Death

Written by Barbara Behling, Communications Director

In honor of the many men and women who have served our country and continue to serve, we thank you today and everyday for your service. 


Even from a deathbed, a mother can save a child. This was the case for Neil Starke, serving in the US Coast Guard during WWII. Thanks to the American Red Cross Services to Armed Forces program he was able to share her last breaths, a visit which also saved his own life.

In the heart of WWII, the USS El Paso was situated at 114° North & 120° East. From these decks, air & sea rescues off the Philippines coasts were conducted. It was in the heart of the fighting, he received a cablegram from the Red Cross which explained his father had fallen while riding a bus, with trauma to his head, he was sent to a mental institution. Meanwhile, in another hospital, his dying mother yearned to see her son one last time. His superior officers granted permission for a 38-day leave of absence. It was this stroke of timing that saved his life.

SONY DSCNeil was taken off one ship, sailed to land on another and then boarded a military plane to fly back to the states. Altogether, the journey took two weeks. While at his mother’s bedside, he shared stories, a smile and the unmistakable touch of a mother’s hand until her passing.  Even today, when sharing his story, he remains visibly shaken.

Now with tears in his eyes, it was time to return to duty. “It was the first time I heard my father’s voice falter when saying good-bye.” Neil explains. By military plane, he flew back to the base and was ready to rejoin his ship. He waited a week. Then two, he was eager to join his team. “It was ironic and a blessing, I was pulled off that ship as it was declared lost in the Yellow Sea typhoon.  While I never saw any man I served with again; the vessel was found two-weeks later. The boilers had been destroyed so it must have been tossing around like a toy in a washing machine,” Neil concluded.

A short-time thereafter, an international peace agreement was signed. The war was over. “Until that cable gram, I had been mad at the Red Cross about $.15 lemonade that tasted awful.  Then I learned the greater meaning of their work. It allowed me to be with my mother in those final days and it also saved my life.”

The Service to the Armed Forces division of the American Red Cross helps our military members and their families across the world with one primary function being Emergency Communications. If family needs to get in touch with a service member while they are on active duty, they can call the Red Cross Emergency Communication line for the military at 1-877-272-7337. The Red Cross will get family in touch, and provide vital verification services so that commanding officers can make informed decisions about emergency leave. The Red Cross is the only organization entrusted with this responsibility because of our longstanding history with the military, as well as our Fundamental Principles of Neutrality and Impartiality.

‘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.

“Will My Children Remember Me?”

In honor of Memorial Day, we want to share with you a touching story and video about how a simple doll can help children cope with deployment of their mom or dad.

Story By:  Mar Tobiason, Meghan Spreer & Barbara Behling

American Red Cross volunteer Mar Tobiason presents Hug-A-Hero dolls to the Blankenship family.  Lillie (3 ½) and Hallie (2) along with their mother Katherine Blankenship were delighted with tears of joy.

American Red Cross volunteer Mar Tobiason presents Hug-A-Hero dolls to the Blankenship family. Lillie (3 ½) and Hallie (2) along with their mother Katherine Blankenship were delighted with tears of joy. Photos credit: Virginia Hart, American Red Cross Volunteer.

“Will my children remember me?”

That’s just one of the concerns military fathers have as they leave their young children for extended periods of time. Thanks to a partnership with the American Red Cross, children of the deployed 5th Marines Divisions, have a resounding “yes” to this question.

After two California wildfire evacuations for Camp Pendleton in California, the flames were extinguished and the families returned home to a very special gift from the Red Cross.  Bobby Ellison-Peck, Services to Armed Forces program manager, coordinates the Hug-A-Hero program with the support of military Family Readiness Coordinators. A full-length photograph is taken of each Mom or Dad and reproduced on a custom-made doll. The foot-high stuffed dolls also have words of encouragement such as “I Love You!” Tears of joy ran down the cheeks of moms after their child received the dolls. Many of the kids squealed with delight, “Daddy! Daddy!”

“It’s not just for the kids, it’s also for ‘me’” stated Melissa Rooks, who is also the Family Resilience Coordinator. “To be honest, I give him a squeeze and kiss too.” Melissa’s son Zachary received a Hug-A-Hero Doll five-years ago.  He still keeps it close to him day and night. “Through facial recognition, he remains physically and emotionally attached. It’s so much more powerful than a doll,” concludes Melissa.

The program is spearheaded by the Red Cross with funding from a Walmart grant. This is one program to help families and military members before, during and after deployments. To learn more about our support of military members and Veterans, please visit www.redcross.org/SAF


Congratulations Chuck Patzer!

Chuck Patzer 2014

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.


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.

Service to Armed Forces Awarded Grant from Green Bay Packers

By John Kost, Service to the Armed Forces Regional Director

John Kost, Service to the Armed Forces Regional Director, holding the check at the awards luncheon on December 17, 2013

John Kost, Service to the Armed Forces Regional Director, holding the check at the awards luncheon on December 17, 2013

We are very pleased to have received a $2,000 grant from the Green Bay Packers Foundation to support United States Reserves and Wisconsin National Guard Family Resiliency Days.

The money will be used to help establish a program that enables families to effectively gather information, resolve problems and maintain the mutual support necessary to reduce stress associated with separations, reintegration, and other challenges that come from military life.

This year, 6,000 or more Reserve, Guard, and associated family members will attend two Family Resiliency Days in their area located throughout Eastern Wisconsin.

Many times, the unit is based out of a different city where Reserve/Guard members and their family reside.  The Reserve and Guard are challenged to provide a strong training and home front with their soldiers.  These families live and work in our communities, are a part of our economies, and are our neighbors and friends.  Ensuring they have solid training, a strong home front, and spirited support is our mission.  When service members are strong, we are all strong.

More than 2.1 Million Cards Sent through Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes

Red Cross Follow-Up:

Holiday Cards Distributed to Members of the Military Across the Globe

Students from Franklin Elementary read their letters and cards to the Veterans at the Wisconsin Veteran's Home at King.

Students from Franklin Elementary in Oshkosh read their letters and cards to the Veterans at the Wisconsin Veteran’s Home at King.

People across the country sent in more than 2.1 million cards to the 2013 American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes project, a record level of holiday greetings for members of the United States military, Veterans and their families.

The cards bearing messages of thanks and gratitude were distributed by the Red Cross all over the world, on military bases and in military hospitals, Veteran’s hospitals and to military families in the U.S. and abroad. This was the seventh year for the project which allows people to send holiday well wishes to members of the Armed Forces, their families and the country’s Veterans

Cards came from people from all walks of life: church groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, clubs, businesses, families and thousands of school children. Ten National Football League teams supported the program by helping host card-signing events at games.

“Americans continue to show their unwavering support for the U.S. military in the more than 2 million cards sent through the 2013 Holiday Mail for Heroes program,” said Sherri Brown, senior vice president, Service to the Armed Forces for the Red Cross. “We thank everyone who took time to express their thanks and holiday wishes to help make the holidays a little brighter for those who serve our country.”

2,944 cards collected from the employees of Humana from their three locations in Green Bay.

2,944 cards collected from the employees of Humana from their three locations in Green Bay.

Locally, we collected around 50,000 cards for the state of Wisconsin.

The cards went to a special post office box for screening, packaging and were shipped to Red Cross offices around the world. Volunteers took time out of their busy holiday schedules to help screen, sort and deliver the holiday greetings to the military, veterans and their families.

Holiday Mail for Heroes began in December 2007 when Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. approached the Red Cross to assist in distributing thousands of holiday cards to hospitalized servicemen and women. The program has grown to become a nationwide effort to honor and remember the nation’s military during the holiday season.

Holiday Mail for Heroes is part of the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces program. For more than 130 years, the Red Cross has provided comfort and support to troops – including the 2 million current members, 24 million veterans and the families who support all of them.

20th Anniversary of Soup’s ON – Help Support High School Challenge


Ten area high schools and their partner restaurants are well on their way to creating a delicious soup for you to try at the 20th Annual Soup’s On fundraiser to benefit the American Red Cross. You won’t go away hungry! You’ll be spoiled with endless soup tasting, fresh grilled cheese sandwiches from Simon’s Cheese, and a variety of appetizers and desserts.

This year, the event team wanted to “spice” things up a bit to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the event.

“For the past 19 years, we have invited restaurants to serve their own soup creations at Soup’s On. With so many team fundraisers out there now, and with popular shows like Celebrity Chef, we wanted to give it a try and create fun teams. We ultimately decided it would be neat to engage the youth in the event. They would get to work with a professional chef, learn more about the Red Cross and give back to their community,” said Becky Bergin, Director of Special Events for the Eastern Wisconsin Region.

But there’s more to the Soup’s On – High School Challenge than great soups! The participating high schools will also be campaigning for your votes prior to the event in an effort to be awarded the Crème de la Crème fundraising trophy and $1,000 grant to use towards new cooking equipment in the classroom. One vote = one dollar.

The list of high school and restaurant teams are as follows:

Appleton East High/Café Bon Appetit

Appleton North High/Mark’s Eastside

Appleton West High/Grand Meridian

Fox Valley Lutheran High/Pullman’s at Trolley Square

Green Bay Preble High/Big Tomatoes

Hortonville High/Ione’s Dining Room (FVTC)

Little Chute High/Main Event Steakhouse

Kaukauna High/Kangaroost

Neenah High/Cannova’s Pizzeria

St. Francis Xavier High/Atlas Coffee Mill & Café

You can show your support for one or more of these teams by placing your vote today at: http://www.crowdrise.com/northeasternwisconsinsoupson

The event will be held on Friday, November 1, 2013 at the Grand Meridian, 2621 N. Oneida St., Appleton. Tickets are on sale now and are $45 in advance and $50 at the door. 

Holiday Mail for Heroes

Each year the American Red Cross provides assistance to more than 2 million service members and many of our nation’s 24 million veterans. We support military families, military and veterans hospitals and provide emergency communications across the globe. And once a year, we get the joy of delivering holiday cards to veterans, military families and active-duty service members at hospitals and installations around the world.

The cards and personal messages, sent by tens of thousands of Americans, provide a welcome “touch of home” for our troops during the holiday season.

Visit our YouTube channel to see Red Cross volunteers distributing cards and messages in previous years: Holiday Mail for Heroes YouTube playlist.

Each year we collect cards between October and early December and then distribute them at military installations, veterans hospitals, and in other locations.

Throughout the year, you can make a difference with a monetary gift to Help Military Families through the Red Cross. Your donation can help change a military family’s life. Donate Now.

There are several ways to be part of the Holiday Mail for Heroes program. In addition to sending cards on your own, you may want to start making plans to host card signing parties or card making parties. Here are a few guidelines to help you on your way:

Card Guidelines:

Every card received will be screened for hazardous materials by Pitney Bowes and then reviewed by Red Cross volunteers working around the country.

Please observe the following guidelines to ensure a quick reviewing process:

  • Ensure that all cards are signed.
  • Use generic salutations such as “Dear Service Member.” Cards addressed to specific individuals can not be delivered through this program.
  • Only cards are being accepted. Do not send or include letters.
  • Do not include email or home addresses on the cards: the program is not meant to foster pen pal relationships.
  • Do not include inserts of any kind, including photos: these items will be removed during the reviewing process.
  • Please refrain from choosing cards with glitter or using loose glitter as it can aggravate health issues of ill and injured warriors.
  • If you are mailing a large quantity of cards, please bundle them and place them in large mailing envelopes or flat rate postal shipping boxes. Each card does not need its own envelope, as envelopes will be removed from all cards before distribution.
All holiday greetings should be addressed and sent to:

Holiday Mail for Heroes

P.O. Box 5456 Capitol Heights

MD 20791-5456

The deadline for having cards to the P.O. Box is Friday, December 7th. Holiday cards received after this date cannot be guaranteed delivery.

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.