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Drawing connections with important Red Cross volunteers

  • Published
  • By Col. Bret Burton
  • 375th Medical Group commander
I've had my eye on a Red Cross volunteer for quite some time. I noticed her at the pharmacy about four months ago; great smile, pretty eyes--flips her hair to the side when she greets patrons, and there's that racy blue vest she wears over that conservative white, long-sleeved blouse. Thankfully, I'm married to her and very proud that my bride has stepped up to assist our perennially busy dispensary.

She's my favorite Red Cross volunteer who happens to share some attributes in common with the founder of America's Red Cross, Miss Clara Barton. Both were exceptionally ingenuitive women from large families with a gift in caring for others. I've become more familiar with Miss Barton's life since researching her story as we recognize Red Cross and Women's History this month. In a desire to pay homage to both important remembrances allow me the indulgence of tying the two cords together.

Miss Barton found purpose at age 11 when she nursed her older brother back to health after he suffered a traumatic head injury during a fall in the family's Maryland barn stead. Despite being a painfully shy girl, as a young woman in the days before state-funded public education she was heralded in New Jersey for starting a school to educate children whose parents couldn't afford instruction. Yet when it came time for the school she founded to hire leadership she lost the opportunity to a male colleague. She persisted beyond that personal defeat to gain a job in the United States Patent Office and earned the same salary as the male clerks. She is quoted as saying, "I may sometimes be willing to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man's work for less than a man's pay."

She gained her nursing experience during the challenging years of the Civil War where she earned the title, "Angel of the Battlefield" from the Army surgeon at Antietam. In a citation from the Antietam National Battlefield we find personal glimpses into her mission to care for those less fortunate and at risk. Her desire to provide battle-front care was seen in her insistence to carry personally procured medical supplies to the injured soldiers. Surgeons hailed her when she arrived with a wagon full of bandages; previously the physicians had resorted to using corn husks procured from local fields to apply to wounds.

After the Civil War, she sojourned in Europe and during the Prussian War of the 1870's became familiar with the International Red Cross. Upon returning to America she persuaded the federal government to recognize the Red Cross as a partner in natural disaster relief efforts in 1881. Since inception, the American Red Cross has gained global prominence as the organization to call upon in times of personal and national disaster relief; spanning the centuries from the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 through multiple world wars and national skirmishes to the most recent Japanese Tsunami of 2011--the Red Cross was there.

Scott AFB is fortunate to have the coordinated volunteer corps of our St. Louis Chapter of the Red Cross; the majority of our 160 base volunteers are women just like my wife--folks with a heart for service and an intentional schedule.

Whatever you have to offer will be multiplied by their efforts; whether it's volunteering two hours a week, giving $20 dollars in cash, or collecting 200 canned goods--a little goes a long way.

Ready to serve? Check out the volunteer website at, call our Scott Red Cross office at 256-3292, or email the Scott Red Cross branch manager Stephanie Pitt at