"It remains a vivid memory from my childhood," recalled Scott N. Lowery, Lycoming County United Way executive director.
"As a high school junior I was enrolled in a civics class taught by George 'Mac' Hufnagle, a well respected educator, coach and administrator in South Williamsport. On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, at 11 minutes after 11 a.m., Mr. Hufnagle led his students in a moment of silence to remember the sacrifices given by the nation's veterans. Every Veteran's Day since I have recalled that moment and always try and practice what he had taught us when that very special time rolls around each year.
"With Veterans Day arriving this Wednesday, each one of us should in their own way show their appreciation and respect for the legacy of freedom bravely given by the men and women who have worn our nation's uniform. I am pleased, that in some small way, our United Way is able to lend support to the Service to Armed Forces (SAF) program conducted here locally through the work of the American Red Cross," Lowery added.
Tony Visco is a Red Cross volunteer locally.
Each year, through donations received by the LCUW annual campaign, funding is provided to the Red Cross to assist with the mission of support to those serving in the military. A volunteer driven program, service focuses on emergency communication and support for all ages, gender and income levels of military members and their families. Verification of deaths, accidents and illness, as well as verification of births are done for communication and, or emergency leave of the military member. Support also is provided during bereavement and homecomings involving members of the military and their families.
The Red Cross works in liaison with the military and is the only organization authorized to verify and act on matters between an active duty military member and their family during an emergency. During the past year the locally provided service has been used more than 150 times.
The $5,000 provided the Red Cross by LCUW is used for the expense of pagers provided to on-call volunteers, educational materials for military personnel and their families, postage expense for each new recruit and follow-up for every case, and to support the families in the event of an active duty death.
Red Cross volunteer Tony Visco has seen first-hand the effectiveness of the program.
"The Red Cross provides many services to our community but one of particular interest to me is the Service to Armed Forces program, for which I have volunteered. When our neighbors, with family members in the military, need to contact their loved one, the SAF steps in," Visco said.
"The program is staffed entirely by volunteers who carry pagers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We are the liaison between the family and the military member to pass information to the necessary agencies to begin the process to bring the family members home.
"In the past years when so many of our neighbors are personally affected by overseas deployments and military service, it is increasingly important for the community to come forward in support of programs designed to assist them. So often we tend to forget the importance of these services if we are not personally involved in using them. I have carried the pager and during that time I have personally handled numerous calls. I find it very gratifying to have assisted these families with their emergency," Visco continued.
For more information on the American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services program call the Red Cross office at 326-9131. For more information on Lycoming County United Way or to support the campaign that funds programs like these visit www.lcuw.org or call 323-9448.