Friday, January 30, 2015

Here's Why You Should Care About a 150-year-old Set of Rules

by Warren Roh, Volunteer Photographer/Storyteller
Most of us have heard of the Geneva Convention. These two words seem to be spoken at least once during every war movie seen in theaters or on TV. I am a U.S. Navy combat veteran. So, when I was asked to attend and photograph the Born on the Battlefield training session at the Red Cross in Denver, I jumped at the chance. The instructor for the training was Tim Bothe. Tim is the International Services Manager for the Colorado & Wyoming Red Cross Region.

To me, the Geneva Convention was a treaty, signed by the U.S. and other countries that spelled out how prisoners of war were to be treated. I didnt know that the Geneva Convention is actually the culmination of four conventions or that it spawned the Red Cross.

Henri Dunant
At this training, we learned that a Swiss activist named Henri Dunant, upon visiting the appalling conditions and horrible treatment of wounded soldiers in the battle of Solferino Italy in 1859, proposed that two significant events take place. Those two events were: 1) that a permanent relief agency for humanitarian aid in times of war be formed, and 2) that a treaty to recognize the neutrality of that relief agency be internationally ratified.

The relief agency became the International Red Cross, based in Geneva, Switzerland. The government treaty became the first Geneva Convention, ratified in 1864. Those two events changed the face of war and the humanitarian treatment of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and civilians ever since.

The Geneva Conventions and their importance in times of war and the humanitarian services of the Red Cross, not only on the battlefield, but in every-day peacetime life, are legendary. This history, in my estimation, should be taught in every high school.

After the training was over, I asked several of the attendees, “did you find this training interesting or helpful? Everyone I spoke with found the training helpful and they gave the class high praise.

Tim Bothe teaches "Born on the Battlefield."
When I came home after class, I asked my two daughters, one a high school senior and one a college sophomore, if they new what the Geneva Convention was. My high school senior said: “What’s that?” I then asked her if she knew who the Red Cross was. She said, “They make Band-Aids, don’t they?" I asked my other daughter, who is a Photojournalism major at Colorado State University, if she had ever heard of the Geneva Convention. She said that she had, but she didn't know anything about it. I then asked her about the Red Cross. She said, “I think they help people, but I’m not sure what all they do.”

My elder daughter then asked if she could read my synopsis of the training from my class notes below. She said, “Wow dad, that’s really cool; did you know any of that before you took the class?” I told her that I was taken aback by how much I didn't know.

My college-aged daughter goes to school in Ft. Collins and has since contacted the Red Cross chapter in Northern Colorado. She has started the process to become a Red Cross Volunteer. My wife and high school senior now want to learn more as well.  I am personally going to ask to speak to my American Legion Post on this subject.

I’d say this class has an effect on my entire family. My hope is that more American families can learn about these important international laws and how they are still relevant today.

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