Wednesday, December 16, 2019 — When Kristina Smith wanted to travel to the bedside of her fiancé wounded in Afghanistan, she called the American Red Cross. Forty-eight hours later, Smith was on her way to Washington, D.C. The saga of those 48 hours involved staff in eight different Red Cross units working to make the reunion possible.
Turning to the Red Cross for Help
Smith’s fiancé, Corporal Robert Davis, was grievously wounded when an IED destroyed the vehicle in which he was riding. Davis was transported to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany, where his parents traveled to be at his bedside. He was then scheduled to be transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington on November 27, the day after Thanksgiving.
Smith, a student and mother of an 18-month-old, turned to the Red Cross for financial assistance to travel from her home in Wade, N.C., to Washington. She called the Highlands Chapter of the Red Cross in Fayetteville, N.C., and spoke with caseworker Jackie Smith.
Because Kristina Smith is Davis’s fiancée, not his wife, her situation was unusual enough that Jackie Smith consulted her state manager, Wendy Dyer, who then brought other staff into the discussion, including Jackie Walters, who was on call at Red Cross national headquarters in Washington.
In situations involving travel to the bedside of a grievously wounded service member, when the military declines to issue an invitation or has brought other family members to the bedside, the Red Cross requires a doctor’s statement. The doctor must state that the requested person’s presence will benefit the service member’s recovery, or, in some cases, bring comfort during his or her last hours. Only then can the Red Cross work with a supplicant to plan the trip.
The Pieces Fall into Place
Although it was a long holiday weekend, the Red Cross—through its 24/7, worldwide network—was able to put all the pieces together in a short time.
First, Jackie Walters alerted the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces center in Ashburn, Virginia, to expect a somewhat unusual request on behalf of a soldier’s fiancée for a doctor’s statement. Antonio Mays promised to keep an eye on the case and to expedite the message to the Red Cross after-hours center in Stuttgart, Germany. On Thanksgiving Day, two additional caseworkers were able to reach Davis’s nurse and physician and verify that Smith’s presence was both wanted by Davis and advisable for his care.
After confirming that Davis was on a military flight to Washington, Red Cross caseworker Ruth Millis arranged a flight for Smith, and another caseworker, Sergio Nino, made hotel arrangements. As the local expert in Washington, Nino knew a nearby hotel that provides accommodations for Walter Reed visitors.
The head of the Red Cross chapter in Fayetteville, Mike Russell, met Smith to issue her a check for food and incidentals for the five days she planned to be in Washington. At 5 p.m. on November 27, Smith boarded a flight to Washington.
The next morning, the hotel shuttle took her to Walter Reed, where she was reunited with Davis and his parents. In the days ahead, the Red Cross senior station manager at Walter Reed, Wade Walrond, visited Davis and met Smith and the soldier’s parents. The family visited the Red Cross office in the hospital to meet the staff and learn about the many services the American Red Cross provides to wounded service members and their families. Walrond also gave Smith a taxi voucher to use when traveling to the airport for her return flight.
The program Smith benefited from is the Casualty Travel Assistance Program (CTAP). Under CTAP, the Red Cross provides transportation, lodging and funds for food and other expenses for immediate family members to travel to the bedside of a service member wounded in Iraq, Afghanistan or Kuwait when the individual’s presence is recommended by the service member’s physician. For the families of service members who died in the combat zone, the Red Cross will assist two immediate family members to travel to a funeral or memorial service for the deceased member. This assistance is in the form of an outright grant.
For more information about Red Cross services for military members, their families and veterans, visit redcross.org
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.