Veteran’s Day

On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, in the 11th month, we bow our heads and honor those who have served. These are the brave men and women who stood tall and said they would sacrifice all if needed to defend our country and our freedoms.

A bit of history to read to your children. In 1862, the Civil War was raging. Exploding shells, mines, cannonballs, and other weaponry had their devastating effect. In July of that year Congress directed the president to purchase land to be used as national cemeteries for those who have and shall die in service to their country. 14 national cemeteries were established. A few years after the hostilities ended in 1865, 72 national cemeteries had been established and over 305,000 of the estimated total loss of 700,000 were interred from both sides of the conflict. 45% were unknown. Hopewell was one of those cemeteries, and typical in that it is about 10 acres. In the 1870’s Congress expanded the inclusion of who could and should be interred, added, land, headstones, fences, and an administration to oversee and maintain these hallowed grounds.

The concept of Veterans Day began with the end of WWI. While “the war to end all wars,” officially concluded on June 28, 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles, the true halt of violent action came months earlier on Nov. 11, 1918 when an armistice between the Americans and the Germans went into effect. This day is generally regarded as the end of “The Great War.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proposed the original idea of Veterans Day to remember the armistice as well as the “heroism of those who died in the country’s service.” Nov. 11 would be a day to promote peace throughout the world and would feature parades, public meetings and a short break in business until 11 a.m. On May 13, 1938, Act 52 went into effect and officially made Nov. 11 “Armistice Day” and a federal holiday. This day was dedicated to the veterans of WWI. But after WWII, with America’s largest mobilization of troops, multiple veteran’s organizations called for a title change. On June 1,1954, the word “armistice” was replaced with “veterans” and Nov. 11 officially became what it is today — Veterans Day and a holiday to honor the veterans of all wars.

At the National Cemetery in Hopewell members of a local JROTC brigade had arrived early to put an American flag at the headstone of the more than 3500 gravesites. The pictures below show how beautiful and sad the effect.

The national cemeteries are opened to others who died while in service, not just the Civil War and most national cemeteries now contain soldiers from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and our most recent conflicts. Sadly, many are filling up.

As has become tradition, American flags are put on headstones. Captain Leslie Farris brought members of the 111 Quartermaster Company from Ft. Lee to help the JROTC cadets with this task. First Sargent Ina Williams, and soldiers James McAusland, Greg Watson, Monika Fortin, (shown below) and Samuel Koroma (placing flags) made sure every grave was marked.

To all those buried here, all those who have served, and all those who will serve, thank you from a grateful nation.

​“The Red Cross does that too?”

Before I started volunteering, I had always thought that the Red Cross was just a group of volunteers that handedout warm meals and blankets to those affected by fires, floods,and hurricanes; but I had no idea that the Red Cross serves in many areas other than disaster relief. 

One of the first things that surprised me about the Red Cross is their Restoring Family Links program. This program gives individuals the opportunity to use Red Cross resources to help reunite them with loved ones separated by war or disaster. The American Red Cross works internationally and has reunited victims that have been separated for decades. The best part? All of these services are freeA service that could cost an individual thousands of dollars, is given to them, by the American Red Cross. 

I was also quite shocked by the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Program. I know that my way of thinking was a bit old-fashionedbut I always pictured SAF as Clara Barton, helping wounded soldiers on the battlefield. While the Red Cross does provide comfort and assistance for wounded soldiers, the Red Cross does way more than just that. I was totally surprised that a huge part of the Red Cross SAF is helping veterans – from therapeutic gardens and patient visits in veterans hospitals to providing “Start Up” kits to homeless veterans who have found housing.

One of the first events that I helped with was by weeding and watering the garden.  This garden gives the residents a calm place trelax outside of the hospital. Through the garden, the Red Cross gives the veterans a place to enjoy, that feels more like home. 

Another Red Cross service that surprised me is their effort to prevent disasters. I knew they responded to disasters, but I had no idea that they helped prevent disasters. A few weeks after I started volunteering, I was surprised to hear about volunteers going with local fire departments to help install smoke detectors into homes. When I heard they helped with installing smoke detectors, I thought, “Hmmm, that’s cool.” But since then, I have realized just how many fatalities could be prevented from house fires if there were only smoke detectors in the homes.. When the Red Cross installs smoke detectors, they are actually helping save lives. 

As I continue to volunteer with the Red Cross, I know I will have many more “Wow, I didn’t know the Red Cross does that too!” moments. So far, the Red Cross has been full of great surprises, and I can’t wait to see what they do next


Red Cross Blog Relaunch!

Dear Red Cross Readers –

It is with great excitement that we re-launch our Red Cross Virginia blog.

With everything from a running series from an intern who admits she really had no idea of all of the things that the Red Cross did when she started, to a Veteran’s Day love story about how the Red Cross and the Army brought a family together (and many things in between) – we hope that you will join us as we share some of the many things that we do, and why we are a part of our Red Cross family.

We hope that you are as excited as we are about all that we do! s

Much more to come… Your American Red Cross

Frank Barksdale: A True Red Cross Hero

This past week, one of our youth leaders was recognized as a Richmond “Hero Among Us” by WTVR CBS 6’s Greg McQuade. I am so proud of our friend, donor and humanitarian, the extraordinary Frank Barksdale, III. He is an inspiration to me. I am grateful that he has chosen to be a multi-year financial supporter of the Red Cross

You can view Frank’s story by visiting

A Great Story

Here is a Red Cross story I received from Jill Ratkovich, our regional Service to Armed Forces manager. It is truly inspirational. Thank you, Jill

Occasionally, ok regularly, I receive requests from various individuals for uplifting stories revolving around clients whom we have served. As you can imagine, it can be very challenging in the field of SAF to find “happy” stories. Thus when periodically I come across one, I am certain to hurriedly tuck it away in order that I might pull it out again when needed. However, today I learned of a story that was just too wonderful to keep under my hat. If even just for a moment, I hope it will renew your spirit in the work you do for our organization.

Every Wednesday afternoon, a group of Service to the Armed Forces volunteers facilitates a Horticultural Therapy Program for patients at McGuire VA. (As an FYI, volunteers support a similar program at the Hampton VA.) The initiative at McGuire is headed by volunteer extraordinaire Chris Buck. Today’s program not only involved activities in the vegetable garden at the hospital, but it also included a 30 minute presentation on the harvesting of honey. For those of you who do not know, Chris is a certified beekeeper. Anyway, during the presentation, there was one particular veteran, a new participant to the program, who seemed truly captivated by the subject. He asked several great questions about beekeeping and mentioned that he had always been interested in it. Later, while doing tasks in the garden, the veteran joked with the other patients and reminisced with some of the volunteers about his childhood and the fond memories he had of working in his family’s garden. At the end of the session, the veteran told Chris how much he had enjoyed the afternoon, and that he would definitely be back next Wednesday. Chris was of course pleased by the veteran’s comments.

If this story was to end here, I think most of us would consider it a “good” one. However what happened next turns this “good” story into a “great” one. After the patients had departed the garden, a therapist from the hospital approached Chris in a very excited manner. She could hardly wait to tell Chris a little more about the veteran who had enjoyed himself so immensely. The therapist told Chris that for whatever reasons, this gentleman had hardly said a word to anyone since he arrived at the hospital. The therapist said that the staff had tried in vain for days to get the patient to say something…anything…to somebody. Hence the reason for the therapist’s elation when the patient began to ask so many questions during the beekeeping brief. He was speaking! She was even more thrilled when he started interacting so freely and happily with others while gardening. The therapist could not thank Chris or the Red Cross enough for sponsoring the program. On a side note, Chris went to visit the veteran in his room before she left the hospital. He invited her in and told her to feel free to visit him anytime she was there. No doubt that from now on, whenever this veteran sees the Red Cross emblem, he will also remember the kind volunteers who wore the emblem on their nametags and helped bring a little sunshine into a dark period of his life.

Have a good evening all…