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Deployers, loved ones learn about American Red Cross services

ORLANDO, Fla. -- In 1971, soldier Pedro Quinonez told relatives he was deploying to Okinawa. When misfortune struck his family, however, they couldn’t locate him.

“I actually ended up in Germany,” said Quinonez, now a retired Army sergeant first class. “The American Red Cross was able to find me there to let me know my brother passed away and get me home.”

Quinonez recalled this as a monumental event in his life that led him to volunteer decades later for the Red Cross, he said during an Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event May 19-21 in Florida.

He was one of two Red Cross representatives working at Yellow Ribbon, which promotes the well-being of reservists and their loved ones by connecting them with resources before and after deployments.

Quinonez and another representative met with attendees to inform them about the services American Red Cross provides to military families. Also known as the American National Red Cross, the institution is a humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief and education in the United States.

In addition to giving a briefing to Reserve Citizen Airmen and their loved ones, the Red Cross representatives staffed a table during the day so people could ask questions and receive information about the special services they provide.

The most critical benefit it offers to GIs is a transcendent ability to get in touch with deployed service members in the event of an emergency back home.

“It doesn’t matter where they are, we will find them and we will bring them home within 48 hours whenever possible,” Quinonez said. “We go straight to the company commander or first sergeant to get the message to the member and coordinate their return.”

During his briefing, Quinonez said anyone with a family’s best interest in mind could contact the American Red Cross to get the process started. They will then get the message to the member and begin making arrangements to get them extracted and home as soon as possible. The service is free.

Working with Quinonez through the Yellow Ribbon weekend was R.P. Warner, who took advantage of Red Cross services when she was injured while an active-duty Airman.

“I burned my hand really bad. I was active duty and so was my husband, but he was away at a remote duty location and I had a little baby at the time,” Warner said. “They contacted him and got him back home.”

Both representatives felt a calling to give back to the Red Cross after the services they received to benefit current service members.

“I wanted a way to give back to those serving our country,” Warner said. “We’re going to be there.”

The American Red Cross is one of the few organizations that has installations near deployed locations so it can be where its needed.

Yellow Ribbon began in 2008 following a congressional mandate for the Department of Defense to assist reservists and National Guard members in maintaining resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles. Each year, the Air Force Reserve program trains 7,000 reservists and family members in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more.