Thursday, February 28, 2013

Seeking Vets to Share Their Stories

Mary (Jacoby) Hastings
Red Cross Volunteers Recording History

By Mary (Jacoby) Hastings

Gates, U.S. Army, with Vietnamese child in 1970
“They teach us in basic training, ‘Your job is not to die for your country but it is to make the other person die for his.’” These are the words of Vietnam veteran Russ Gates of Dumont, CO, one of dozens of local veterans being interviewed by Red Cross volunteers on behalf of the Veterans History Project, a collection of firsthand accounts from battle-tested U.S. veterans for the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. American Red Cross volunteers collect hours of such testimony to assist with the Veterans History Project as part of an American Red Cross commitment to support the program through the Red Cross Service to Armed Forces (SAF) division.

Every veteran has a story to tell and in each case, the details vary from heart-wrenching to shocking and, sometimes, even humorous. Whether it is a veteran recalling a fire fight against the Nazis in the French countryside during WWII, a Navy seaman describing taking fire while fixing the radar antenna on a ship, or a member of the U.S. Air Force sharing what it was like to await orders during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the stories provide fascinating accounts of small moments that helped to shape history.

Russell B. Gates, U.S. Army Serving in Vietnam 1970
The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

What we learn from these war stories is invaluable, such as Gates recounting, “People think about what it was like being scared…what it was like to be in combat when things are going off all around you.” He goes on to say, “It was scary. It was terrifying. You could taste that, but that’s the way it was.” 

The Veterans being interviewed weren’t just the front-line soldiers, but also essential support staff. Lynn English of Denver, CO was a civilian stewardess when the government retrofitted commercial aircraft to transport troops in and out of Vietnam. She volunteered for a year-long Military Air Command tour out of Los Angeles at age 21. She recounted what it was like seeing the pilots emerge from the cockpit—sweat dripping from their faces—after taking fire flying into Vietnam, and how somber the cabin always was when flying soldiers home, their comrades in caskets in the holds below.

Many of the veterans interviewed also have a Red Cross story embedded within their military experience – whether it was the WWII vet who looked to Red Cross care packages to make it through POW camp, or the Vietnam vet who recalls Red Cross clubmobiles that helped raise spirits, or one of today’s more recent veterans who was able to return home for a family emergency thanks to a communication from the Red Cross.

Our Red Cross interviewers continue to seek local veterans to interview for this project. If you are a veteran or know a veteran who would like to share his or her story, please contact Tim Bothe at the American Red Cross to let your voice be heard: or 303-607-4785. To learn more about the Veterans History Project, visit:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Spotlight on Saving Lives: Tanner Voss

In May 2012, Tanner Voss was at a friend’s house at a party. His friend, Aaron, was lying on the couch not feeling well, then ran into the bathroom to be sick. Moments later Aaron rushed out and was pounding on his chest, trying to loosen whatever was blocking his airway – not what you typically see
when someone is choking. Tanner immediately knew his friend was in a life or death situation. He grabbed Aaron from behind and performed repeated abdominal thrusts until Aaron threw up and was able to breathe again.

It was probably just 20 seconds from beginning to end of the situation, but Tanner’s training and quick- thinking from CPR and Lifeguard training saved his friend’s life. Surprisingly, he felt rattled much more so than the victim! As a lifeguard, Tanner goes to work every day expecting this could happen, but instead, a life or death situation occurred when he least expected it. Between his friend’s body language and his own instincts, he was able to react automatically and naturally.

As a result of this incident, many of Tanner’s friends wanted to take CPR training to be more prepared. As many people witnessed that night, saving a stranger – or a friend – can come down to you and you alone. The good news is, it’s not difficult to take the class and be prepared for anything. Only a small investment of time (6-8 hours) can make the biggest difference. Visit to sign up now.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Experience Unforgettable Stories of Real Heroes at American Red Cross Breakfast of Champions March 8

Mark your calendar to experience unforgettable stories of heroism, learn about the Red Cross mission in action, and join the community in commemorating Colorado’s ability to overcome adversity.
Colorado experienced an unprecedented year of tragedies and challenges in 2012. Out of these incidents, heroes emerged and we learned that, together, we can triumph over tragedy. During the American Red Cross Breakfast of Champions on Friday, March 8, the Red Cross Mile High Chapter will celebrate this spirit of Colorado overcoming and will honor Colorado heroes who have saved lives, worked tirelessly to help others, and contributed to the healing and recovery of their fellow residents.

The event will honor individuals and organizations who touched lives during the largest disasters of 2012 as well as everyday heroes who made a difference, including:
  • A pair of fashion consultants who organized a dignified, fun, personal way for women displaced by the Waldo Canyon Fire to replace clothing lost to the flames;
  • A brother and sister duo who saved their own father’s life on Thanksgiving Day;
  • A couple who volunteered with the Red Cross to serve their neighbors, even as their own home was threatened by the High Park Fire;
  • A group of ER doctors who saved the lives of 23 people the night of the Aurora shooting;
  • An off-duty Airforce Airman who leapt into action, set up a triage and helped save the lives of nearly a dozen people injured in a rollover accident on I-70;
  • …And more!

The Breakfast of Champions, sponsored by DCP Midstream, is the American Red Cross Mile High Chapter’s largest fundraiser of the year; all proceeds support local Red Cross services, including disaster response, community preparedness, support for local military and their families, and lifesaving skills training and resources.

American Red Cross Breakfast of Champions
Friday, March 8, 2013
7:30- 9 a.m.
Hyatt Regency at the Colorado Convention Center
650 15th Street, Denver, CO

For more information, visit or call (303) 607-4791. Tickets for the Breakfast are available for purchase until March 1.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cherry Creek Shopping Center Shares Why They Support the Breakfast of Champions

For Nick LeMasters, General Manager of the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, it’s not about the money, it’s all about the mission.  As an annual sponsor of the Mile High Red Cross Breakfast of Champions, LeMasters says it’s “a wonderful way to recognize the selfless acts of others.”

The Breakfast of Champions showcases stories of individuals, teams, and even animals that have displayed courage and compassion, often acting in lifesaving capacities in emergency situations. This year’s event takes place at 7:30 a.m. on March 8 at the Hyatt Regency Denver, and Nick LeMasters says that he has “personally found the Breakfast of Champions to be one of the most uplifting events that I attend all year.”

LeMasters’ exposure to the Red Cross actually began many years ago as a teenager in Napa: a devastating fire in the valley destroyed valuable property, displaced residents and severely disrupted the local economy.  Working in a store that matched vouchers provided by the Red Cross, LeMasters witnessed how important providing basic essentials could be to those in need.

Later in Denver, he served for six years on the Board of Directors for the Red Cross Mile High Chapter, providing additional leadership for the organization as Chapter Chair in 2008-2009.   LeMasters is passionate about supporting the Red Cross because “nobody does what the Red Cross does.”  Among many local, non-profit organizations he says, “they stand alone in their ability to respond to disasters.”

LeMasters points out “we often think about disasters as the next tornado, the next flood, the next hurricane.  But you know, when someone’s house burns down, that’s their Katrina.”  And the Red Cross is there, providing shelter, food, clothes, support…."it’s just extraordinary," he continues.

As Chapter Board Chair for Red Cross, LeMasters helped procure a $5 million grant for the statewide Preparedness Program, a feat that led to being named “Volunteer Fund Raiser of the Year” by the Mile High Chapter in September 2010.  In addition, he brought security teams from malls throughout the Front Range to Cherry Creek Shopping Center so they could learn about this important Red Cross program that assists businesses evaluate their preparedness for emergencies.

On March 8, look for the corporate table at the Breakfast of Champions sponsored by the Cherry Creek Shopping Center.  Say hello to Nick LeMasters and his Marketing & Sponsorship Director, Dave Dixon.  They are hosting a group of people “who might have an interest in perhaps donating time, talent or even treasure to the Red Cross.”  Take a minute to thank him for all that he has done for the organization and all that he still hopes to do!

For more information about participating in the Breakfast of Champions on March 8, 2013, visit:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Red Cross Volunteers Attend to More Home Fires in Winter Months

Home fires are the most common disaster faced by American families, yet 80 percent of Americans are unaware of just how frequent home fires affect their neighbors, coworkers and family members. According to the American Red Cross and the National Fire Protection Association, fires kill more Americans each year than all natural disasters combined. Nationwide, Red Cross volunteers respond to more than 60,000 home fires each year – including an average of about one a day in Colorado. Among those volunteers is retiree and Disaster Action Team captain Jerome Roberts, who has been volunteering helping people affected by home fires for 25 years.

As DAT captain, Jerome works to coordinate on-site services that supply home-fire survivors with food, shelter, clothing and other basic needs. His team works with fire department personnel to whether it is safe for residents to return to their homes affected by fire, and helps clients take the next steps toward rebuilding their lives.

Jerome’s work with the Red Cross began 25 years ago, but was inspired by his mother’s experience with the Service to the Armed Forces during World War II. The service helped Jerome’s mother locate her husband during the war, and Jerome always felt the need to pay it forward to the organization. “They got in touch with him, and her help from the Red Cross made me want to go give as much as I can to the Red Cross.”

In his experience as a volunteer, Jerome has worked with countless clients whose lives have been affected by home fires in Colorado and Ohio. Despite the difficulty of the work, Jerome says he enjoys the dimension of helping those who have nowhere else to go. “I’m 76-years old, and it keeps me going,” he said. “It’s one of the things I love doing.”

Monday, February 18, 2013

Meet your Bloggers: Leslie Madsen

Over the years, I’ve written many articles about companies and nonprofits around Colorado and am excited to add “new” blogger for Mile High Red Cross, to my quiver of fantastic writing projects!

Good storytelling is more than the dissemination of information.  Providing readers with quality stories about various components of the Red Cross is how we connect with our community, and ultimately, with humanityFostering this connection is critical in this day and age of reality shows and media hype: only you can distinguish between the important and the inane!

As for me, I moved to Colorado in the early 1980’s in order to attend the University of Denver and earn a masters degree in international studies.  I launched a career, got married, had two wonderful sons and traveled the world, both professionally and for fun.

So now it’s time to give back to the community.  When I’m not volunteering for the Audio Information Network of Colorado, Mayfair Neighbors or A+ Angels Mentoring at East High School, you’ll find me skiing, snowshoeing or playing tennis.  However, my #1 outdoor pursuit is hiking, including treks to Argentina, the south island of New Zealand, Canada and lots of great trails here in our wonderful state.

I am looking forward to posting blogs for the Red Cross that describe the incredible talent and depth of this humanitarian organization.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

For Valentine's Day: A Red Cross Love Story

The Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces program has facilitated communication with service members in all branches of the military for countless individuals. But for one couple, the Red Cross didn’t just provide help to relay a message -- it reignited a romance that has endured for six decades.

Rip and Ruth Hobson met in Englewood when they were attending different high schools. Ruth saw Rip playing football one day and decided she wanted to meet the young man. Their first date was at a school Halloween party, and they stayed together as teenagers until Rip, as he put it, started acting like a “typical teenage boy.” Rip nearly dropped out of high school and the couple broke up, eventually losing touch.

Later, Ruth got wind that Rip had joined the military and enlisted the help of the Red Cross to track him down and reestablish contact. “I don’t know who suggested it, but I just didn’t know where to start. So someone suggested I try the Red Cross.”

She contacted her chapter and a few weeks later, got the detailed information needed to send him a letter. Rip was in basic training to become a paratrooper when he received a package from Ruth. She sent a letter, accompanied with a framed, 8x10 color photograph. “She was a gorgeous lady,” Rip said. “Still is.”

When he got the letter and the photograph, Rip called Ruth collect and proposed. The two were married August 18, 1953, and will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary this year. Ruth said that even getting the call from Rip was a stroke of fate. A girlfriend had asked her to go out that very afternoon, and she declined, feeling that it was important she stay at home. “It was just meant to be,” she said.

Rip, who eventually worked in law enforcement and retired as the Littleton Chief of Police, continues to be involved with the Red Cross as a volunteer driver. He has given his time to the Red Cross Mile High Chapter’s Transportation Services program for more than 16 years.

Their secret to a 60-year marriage? “A lot of patience,” Rip said. “I’ve put her through a lot. When I was in the airborne, I was out jumping out of planes and she was back in the apartment.” For Ruth, it comes down to compromise and commitment. “It’s never, ever 50-50. It might be 90-10, or anywhere in between. And I don’t care if you’ve been married a few months, or as long as we have, it’s work. You have to work at it.”

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Military, Families, Veterans, Remembered by Millions During Red Cross Holiday Mail For Heroes Program

The American public remembered members of the U.S. military, their families and veterans by sending in more than 1.2 million cards during the sixth annual Holiday Mail for Heroes program, a joint initiative of the American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes. Locally, Colorado contributed over 19,000 cards to the cause.

The holiday cards bearing messages of thanks and gratitude were distributed all over the world, on military bases and in military hospitals, veteran’s hospitals and to military families in the U.S. and abroad. All across the country, people from all walks of life sent in cards, remembering the men and women who serve their country.

This year, nine National Football League teams supported the program by helping host card-signing events at games and celebrities such as Trace Adkins supported the campaign. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate held card signings on Capitol Hill. The first families of Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Georgia visited military and veterans’ hospitals to distribute cards.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Buckley AFB Hosts MMA Fight Night Saturday, February 9

Mary (Jacoby) Hastings
First Ever to Be Held on a Military Installation
by Mary (Jacoby) Hastings
On Saturday, February 9, 2013, Buckley Air Force Base (AFB) will host the first-ever Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight to be held on a military installation. The event begins at 8 p.m. with a weigh-in scheduled for 7 p.m., Friday, February 8 at Noonan’s Tavern and Banquet Hall on the Buckley campus. The weigh-in is open to the public; however the fight is not open to the public. MMA Fight Night will air live on USTREAM via IPPV at 7:30 p.m. (MST).
The purpose of the MMA Fight is to demonstrate alternative workout methods for service personnel and wounded warriors in addition to raising the morale of troops. American Red Cross volunteers will be assisting wherever needed, including help with weigh-ins, and will be available to answer questions about Red Cross services to U.S. Armed Forces at the event.

Invitations were sent to personnel at all Colorado military bases, including Ft. Carson, Peterson AFB , Schriever AFB, and Buckley AFB. Up to 10 bouts will feature active military and veterans representing the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Air Force Reserves. The event does require a military ID for entry.

The American Red Cross offers a series of programs and activities to support wounded, ill or injured service members, their family members and the military medical staff. This MMA event helps strengthen services and support offered to our nation’s service members. For more information on American Red Cross Service to Armed Forces visit:

The Internet Broadcast is brought to viewers by SHAMELESS MMA, and a portion of proceeds will be going to the Wounded Warriors fund. For more information visit

Monday, February 4, 2013

Transportation Services: A Unique Volunteer Experience

Volunteering as a driver for the Red Cross takes commitment, the willingness to face a challenge, and, of course, a love for the open road. But for seniors who rely on the volunteers who comprise the American Red Cross' Transportation Services, their weekly ride to the pharmacy or the grocery store is much more than a way to get from point A to point B. It is a vital connection to their independence and their community, thanks to the trusted volunteer in the driver's seat. And for that volunteer, the ride fosters an enduring relationship unique between the passengers and drivers of the program.