From Military to Red Cross – Veterans Still Serving

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” – Arthur Ashe

On Veterans Day the American Red Cross thanks all of the veterans who have given their lives to protect our great country. We especially appreciate the many veterans who continue to serve the American people as volunteers with the Red Cross.

Here are stories about two veterans who have stepped out of a military uniform and into the humanitarian role of the Red Cross.

John Huntz, ex-Marine and retired Army Reserve officer and retired police officer

Story by Kate Walters Photo courtesy John Huntz

On August 25th, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the Middle Texas Coast.

John Huntz as a Marine in Vietnam

John Huntz, a veteran of the military and a retired police officer watched the news coverage from his home in Colorado Springs. When he saw the report about a Houston police officer that had drowned on his way to work John turned to his wife and said, “I’m either going to go to his funeral or I’m going to help the victims in Texas.” Remembering his experience with the Red Cross while serving in Vietnam, he knew the strength of the Red Cross as an organization. He called the local chapter in Colorado Springs, signed up and completed the required training. He was in Texas 4 days later distributing emergency supplies to hurricane victims.

“We are sort of addicted to service. I think we are drawn to The Red Cross because of a similar mission-oriented and structured system which is part of who we are,” says the Marine and Army Reserve Veteran. Veterans have been active all of their lives. Staying involved in helping others after retirement is rewarding and comes naturally to most of them.

Since deploying to Hurricane Harvey in 2017, John has served during several other local and national disasters. Most recently he was in North Carolina for 2 weeks distributing meals to flood victims of Hurricane Florence. After being home for a week, he was on a plane headed to back to the field to bring relief to the victims of Hurricane Michael in Florida.

“I keep going back because I can’t just do nothing when I know people are suffering. It’s not in my DNA.” he chuckles. “There is so much need.”  While in North Carolina he recalls listening to a woman tell the story of being rescued from her rooftop by helicopter. As she spoke, her young son reached into his pocket and offered a quarter to John. The boy wanted to give back to the Red Cross for helping his family. “These are the moments that keep me coming back.”

“There are always opportunities to serve with the Red Cross. I stay busy,” He says. John has lived a life of public service. The American Red Cross is the perfect place for him to continue to serve. It’s a deeply rewarding experience and John recommends volunteering with the Red Cross to other veterans.

John Walsh – From Coast Guard to the Railroad and then to the Red Cross

Story by Beth Bernhardt and photo by Kathy Dill

John Walsh served four years in the U.S. Coast Guard, serving as part of a rescue team in Savannah, GA and then on an Ice Breaker on Lake Superior. Much of his time was spent rescuing disabled boats in the ocean and on the lake. John estimates around 300 distress calls per year.

John Walsh ready for deployment with Red Cross

After the Coast Guard, John worked for the Burlington Northern Railroad working his way to a Leasing Manager responsible for several million dollars’ worth of equipment until his retirement in 2015.

John’s next path of service came in retirement. He began volunteering for the American Red Cross in 2017. John does anything needed at the Red Cross of Northern Colorado in Loveland. He serves on a Disaster Action Team (DAT) helping people recover from home fires.  He also supports logistics and enjoys driving an emergency response vehicle (ERV).

The skills and experience John has gained came to good use during the two deployments he’s been called for. The first one was to work the Colorado wildfires in spring 2018. He drove an ERV doing bulk distribution of supplies such as rakes, shovels, sifters and cleaning kits to families just returning to their evacuated homes.

The second deployment was in the wake of Hurricane Florence that hit the North Carolina coast this fall. There he and his partner drove an ERV delivering meals to those stranded by the flooding. Says John, “The Red Cross keeps me busy. I see other parts of the country and get to help people too.” Especially in North Carolina, which has many poor areas, “I like helping people who are in need. The North Carolina people were really grateful.”

Just as we are grateful to John for his years of service in the Coast Guard, and his year of service in the Red Cross.