By Taelor Duckworth, staff contributor, American Red Cross
For the first 17 years of her life, Aneisa Watson lived overseas. Her father, a career Army man, is retired E-6 Staff Sergeant Robert Watson. While enlisted, he worked in transportation, and his work took his family on travels across the world.
Aneisa, a Development Operations Specialist for the American Red Cross North Texas Region, fondly remembers growing up in different places as helping her grow culturally. Bending to the norms of other people and understanding varying customs provided her with learning opportunities she couldn’t have imagined otherwise.
Her first encounter with the Red Cross came when she and her two sisters were fairly young.
“The Red Cross taught us how to swim,” said Aneisa. “We took babysitting classes with the Red Cross, too. Our Girl Scout troops took classes and partnered with the Red Cross to help us earn patches, and the Red Cross was at every single duty station we ever went to.”
One patch she remembers earning is the typhoon patch, achieved after learning typhoon preparedness in Okinawa, Japan.
But what sticks out the most in Aneisa’s memory about the American Red Cross isn’t the patches or the swimming lessons, it’s the two times the Red Cross helped her family return stateside during emergencies.
The first time, her grandfather was ill, and physicians feared he might not make it. Through help from the Red Cross, Aneisa’s mom was able to get on a plane and return to the U.S. to see her father before he passed.
The second time was more of a feat.
Aneisa’s uncle went missing in her hometown of New Orleans. Her grandmother called her father and asked him to come home to help in the search.
In order to release an active duty soldier from his responsibilities, the military has many safeguards in place to ensure that information is correct. In fact, the Red Cross is the only non-governmental organization trusted by the Department of Defense to handle the military’s emergency communications.
In the Watson family’s case, the Red Cross was contacted to help verify information to allow Robert to leave his station in Italy to return to Louisiana. Shortly after his disappearance, Robert’s brother was found dead. Now, Robert needed to get his entire family from Vicenza, Italy back to New Orleans for a funeral. He was able to work with the Red Cross to verify the information he received from his family. His commanding officers released him for leave, and Robert, his wife and three daughters boarded a plane bound for the States.
From providing positive learning opportunities to giving her family assistance in times of heart-wrenching need, the Red Cross has touched Aneisa’s life in many ways. It’s because of these experiences that she chose to pursue a career in the non-profit world after college. Her passion for the military and her personal encounters led her to service with the Red Cross in North Texas last year.
Emergency communications don’t just happen during disasters. We do them every day, serving alongside our nation’s military in times of war and peace. If you or a loved one needs Red Cross military emergency communications support, contact our Hero Care Network at redcross.org/HeroCareNetwork or call us toll-free at 1-877-272-7337.
To learn more about what the Red Cross does to serve military families, visit our website at redcross.org/saf. If you’d like to support our work with military families, visit redcross.org to volunteer or donate.