Red Cross helps soldiers

fL-red-cross-6-24GIFF JOHNSON

A little known service offered by the Marshall Islands Red Cross Society provides valuable help to members of the US Armed Forces when immediate family members die or are critically ill. This is among a range of services that the establishment of a Red Cross Society in the Marshalls offers to people living in the RMI and serving in the US Armed Forces.

The Red Cross provides verification of the death or illness, communicating this information directly to a service member’s immediate command. The process facilitates US military support and release of soldiers to return home for funerals or critically ill immediate family members.

Telbi Jason, the assistant administrator for the Marshall Islands Red Cross Society, which is based at the Marshall Islands Resort, explained how the service works.

“Family members initiate an emergency request for the service member to be present at times like these through the American Red Cross,” she said. “They will send us an email to request information for verification.  Emergency requests can be initiated by service members or family members in the US or in the Marshall Islands.”

Jason said in the case of a death, “I will work with family members to obtain the death certificate and get more information for the service member, if they can provide. I will also work with the hospital, most cases with the person’s doctor or the attending doctor at time of death, to get verifications and other requested information by American Red Cross.”

In the case of someone very ill, “I will contact the doctor and get all the information I need to provide for the service member’s emergency request.”

This information provides independent verification of the family situation and is provided to the American Red Cross, which then communicates directly to the service member’s commander.

I had a first-hand view of the help the Marshall Islands Red Cross Society provided to a family of a Marshallese serving in the US Army when her mother died recently. I knew nothing about it before I was asked to trigger to the Red Cross’ system for confirming a death in the family.

I was skeptical about response time when my initial request was emailed to Red Cross officials on a recent Sunday morning, a few hours after the mother of service member died at Majuro hospital. But my skepticism evaporated when I received an almost immediate response from local Red Cross staff despite it being church time in the Marshall Islands.

Jason was well versed in the system for providing verification of an immediate family member’s death, responding back with a short list of information she needed from the California-based Army soldier. She then immediately started movement for issuance of a death certificate. Jason spoke with the service member’s sister instructing her on the steps to get the death certificate processed. On Monday morning, she talked to medical records staff to expect the sister and to expedite the process of getting the document. She also emailed a ministry deputy secretary to get assistance, as well as communicating with the doctors who took care of the deceased.

By Tuesday, Jason had necessary information in hand and communicated this to the American Red Cross, which submitted it to the California Army command. Two days later, the service member was on a plane from Los Angeles on her way home for the funeral.

Read more about this in the June 24, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.