Posts Tagged ‘American Red Cross’

Harvard Field Hospital Unit Memorial

On this ride I discovered this small, of-the-beaten path memorial on the grounds behind the American National Red Cross Headquarters building (MAP), in D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood.  The simplicity of the memorial naturally directs visitors to the plaque on top, which tells the story of the memorial.


This plaque acknowledges the public spirit of Harvard University and the dedication of the staff of the American Red Cross – Harvard Field Hospital Unit, who provided and staffed a pre-fabricated hospital sent to Salisbury, England, in the summer of 1941 to deal with the potential outbreak of communicable diseases.

In particular, homage is paid to the following – Reported missing and presumed lost’ on the voyage to Britain:
Ruth Breckenridge – Housemother
Nancie M. Prett, R.N.
Phylis L. Evans, R.N.
Phylis L. Evans, R.N.
Dorothea L. Koehn, R.N.
Dorothy C. Morse, R.N.

In July 1942 the hospital was transferred to the United States Army. Following the war, the facility reverted to the British Ministry of Health and was the site of the Common Cold Research Unit. It finally closed in 1990.

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

A "Holiday Mail for Heroes" Ride

A “Holiday Mail for Heroes” Ride

On this lunchtime bike ride I rode by the National Headquarters for the American Red Cross. Although I have ridden to their building before, I did so again on this ride so that I could write this blog post to give recognition to the organization’s sponsorship of the “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program.

I have recently started seeing a number of Facebook posts encouraging people to send Christmas cards addressed to “A Recovering American Soldier” or “Any Wounded Soldier” to Walter Reed Hospital.  However, you should know that these cards will not reach their intended recipients.  The former Walter Reed Army Medical Center closed and merged with the National Naval Medical Center to form the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Maryland. And in keeping with a decision by the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Transportation Policy, which was made to ensure the safety and well being of patients and staff at medical centers throughout the Department of Defense, the WRNMMC will not be accepting cards or packages for soldiers during the holidays.

Additionally, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer accepting “Any Service Member” or “Any Wounded Service Member” letters or packages. Mail to “Any Service Member” that is deposited into a mail collection box will not be delivered.

If you would like to send a Christmas card or holiday letter to a service member, sending it through the Red Cross-sponsored “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program would be a good and reliable choice. However, beginning this year the program will be taking on a different look. Red Cross chapters across the United States and Red Cross offices on military installations overseas will take complete control of the program. There will no longer be a national Holiday Mail for Heroes P.O. Box to which cards can be sent.

Moving forward, local Red Cross offices will collect, sort, and distribute the holiday cards using an events-based approach in their local communities.  Local Red Cross offices will hold events to sign or make holiday cards, and schedule card-sorting times. They will then coordinate card delivery to the military, vets and families in their communities.  These changes will allow local Red Cross offices to better concentrate on reaching out to the members of the military, veterans and families in their community – neighbors helping neighbors.

So contact your local Red Cross chapter directly to find out if they are participating.  If they are, consider doing the same thing.  However, if your local chapter does not have any events, you can still help by making a donation that will help them continue helping service members and veterans separated from their families this holiday season due to deployments and hospital stays.

Motherland - The Armenian Earthquake Statue

Motherland – The Armenian Earthquake Statue

To the right of the main entrance on the north lawn of The American Red Cross Headquarters, located just a block away from The White House at 430 17th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C., stands a statue named “Motherland.” Armenian sculptor Frederic Sagoyan, a famous sculptor of Russian monuments, created the bronze sculpture of a mother fiercely holding a fearful child based upon a woman who survived several days in the rubble with her child. He gifted the sculpture on behalf of the Armenian people to the American Red Cross in appreciation for their assistance and support in the aftermath of the Spitak earthquake in Armenia, which devastated that country. On this bike ride I went by to see the statue.

The Armenian earthquake, also known as the Spitak earthquake, occurred on December 7, 1988, in the northern region of Armenia, which was a part of the Soviet Union at that time. The earthquake measured 6.8 on the Surface Wave Magnitude Scale, one of the magnitude scales similar to the more commonly-known Richter scale, which is used in seismology to describe the size of an earthquake. Although it was not extraordinary in its seismology or main characteristics, the earthquake was unusually devastating. Over 45,000 people were brought out of the rubble, including a group of six friends who were trapped for 35 days in the basement of a collapsed nine-story building. In the end, at least 25,000 people were killed and another 30,000 injured, while 21 towns and 342 villages were destroyed.

Compounding the horrific tragedy, most hospitals in the region could not withstand the earthquake. Most of them collapsed, killing two-thirds of the doctors, destroying equipment and medicine, and reducing the capacity to handle the critical medical needs in the region in the earthquake’s aftermath. This, in part, led to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev formally asking the U.S. for humanitarian assistance, despite the tensions at that time of the ongoing Cold War. In addition to the U.S. as well as private donations and assistance, 112 other countries also provided substantial amounts of humanitarian aid to the Soviet Union in the form of rescue equipment, search teams and medical supplies. It was the largest international cooperation since World War II.

That deluge of western aid, particularly from the U.S., that was a byproduct of the disaster that may have had a positive effect on Soviet Union–United States relations. It was less than a year later, on November 9, 1989, that the Berlin Wall was torn down in a significant step leading to the end of the Cold War.

So as I was there looking at “Motherland,” I couldn’t help but think about how the statue not only represented how the Red Cross, the U.S., and the international community came together for good in the aftermath of the Spitak tragedy, but also how those events and people are intertwined and connected to other events that since that time which together have changed the course of history.


Franklin Square Park

Franklin Square Park

Franklin Square is a park in northwest D.C., which is bounded by K Street to the north, 13th Street on the east, I Street on the south, and 14th Street on the west (MAP).  The downtown park slopes uphill from I Street to K Street, and is partially terraced.  Franklin Square Park also contains sufficient old growth trees to provide ample shade to visitors, a geometric system of concrete pathways for traversing the park in almost any direction, and a flagstone plaza with a large fountain in its middle.

The 4.79-acre park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is maintained by the National Park Service.  And while it is often assumed that it was named after Benjamin Franklin, there are no records or definitive proof to establish this.  However, Franklin Square is surrounded by a rich history, regardless of the origin of its name.  Across 13th Street on the east side of the square is the historic Franklin School, a National Historic Landmark, which was the scene of Alexander Graham Bell’s first wireless message.  On June 3, 1880, Bell sent a message over a beam of light to a window in a building at 1325 L Street using his newly invented Photophone.   Also, Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross maintained a residence adjacent to the park at 1326 I Street, where she held the first official meeting of the relief organization in May of 1881.

Today the park is located in a lively and bustling area of downtown, and often hosts a nearly overflow crowd of employees taking a short break from their responsibilities, or enjoying a lunch obtained from one of the nearby eateries or the many food trucks that surround the park during the middle of the day.  The eclectic crowd utilizing the park can also include anyone or anything, from tourists who have strayed off their usual path, to older people practicing tai chi, and even a service for the homeless and others by the Church of the Epiphany every Tuesday.  There are also the many pigeons who will flock to anyone who purposefully, or sometimes unwillingly, feed them.  The entertainment value of the park makes it a good destination for a bike ride, and an ideal location for a mid-day respite.

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[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]


The American National Red Cross Headquarters

Today is the anniversary of American National Red Cross, which was co-founded by humanitarian Clara Barton on this day in 1881.  So if you’re out today for a bike ride in downtown D.C., I recommend riding by the headquarters for the American National Red Cross, which is located at 430 17th Street (MAP), just a few blocks from The White House.  You could also go by their administrative building at 2025 E Street in northwest D.C. (MAP), where on the grounds you will find the Red Cross Memorial.

Clara Barton, who was born in Massachusetts in 1821, worked with the sick and wounded during the Civil War and became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her tireless dedication.  In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln commissioned her to search for lost prisoners of war, and with the extensive records she had compiled during the war, she succeeded in identifying thousands of the Union dead at the Andersonville prisoner-of-war camp.  She worked out of a location on 7th Street in D.C., known as The Missing Soldiers Office.

She was in Europe in 1870 when the Franco-Prussian War broke out, and she went behind the German lines to work for the International Red Cross.  In 1873, Barton returned to the United States, and four years later she organized an American branch of the International Red Cross.

The American National Red Cross later received its first U.S. Federal charter in 1900.  Although not a branch of the government, the organization, under a second charter issued by Congress in 1905, continues to this day to provide services to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and to the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as to state and local relief units coping with natural disasters.

The organization started 133 years ago today is still going strong.  It currently supplies more than 40 percent of the blood and blood products in the U.S.  It is also involved helping victims whenever disasters strike, such as hurricanes, tornados and floods.  The American Red Cross also is actively involved in supporting America’s military families.  And the multifaceted organization provides an array of training to more than 9 million people each year, in the areas of first aid/CPR certification, lifeguard training, babysitter’s training, as well as training for first responders and nursing assistants.

I encourage everyone to learn more about what they do, and then get involved either through donating blood, donating money, or donating your time.  You’ll be glad you did. And undoubtedly, so will someone else who is in need.

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[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]