Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Red Cross Message

Perusing Facebook on my iPhone yesterday at the Food Court while enjoying my iced vanilla latte, I stumbled upon sad news. Hubby's step-grandmother died the day before. Since we are in Japan and with the time difference, his mother hadn't been able to contact us yet. So from his brother and sister's status updates on Facebook, I found out about Grandma's death. Finding out those things in a Food Court, a busy crowded Food Court, is not a good thing. I threw on my sunglasses and left as quickly as I could without bursting into tears for all to see.

This is where living overseas really just sucks (sorry that is the most suitable word). I can't just hop on a plane, fly a couple of hours and then be there to support our family. I don't think they warn you about these things when you move overseas. While you might be able to get home, it is a huge ordeal. Brother asked if we were going home for the funeral. I feel terrible. I know our family understands, but I feel so helpless here. This is the same as I when my grandmother died last year.

My first response was to call my in-laws. Well- it was 1 am back home. I waited up until midnight here, 9am there. They were on their way to the mortuary. My father in law sounded so sad, so torn up, it broke my heart. I absolutely love that man. He is Hubby's step-father, but he has never treated my children like step-grandkids, and my kids don't know the difference. My own father and step-father passed away about 5 years ago, so I am grateful for my father in law.

The other reason I called was to get the specifics on where Grandma passed away (name of the hospital for example). My next call was to the Red Cross.

Many people might not know this (or maybe everyone knows this), but the Red Cross will send a message to your service member to notify him and his command/unit, etc, of a family member's death. What they will do is verify the information and then get the message out to wherever the service member may be. They do not send emails, but will relay all information by phone. This is important if a service member is deployed and needs a legitimate reason to go home.

To initiate a Red Cross message, you can call the stateside toll-free number: 877-272-7337. You are going to need your service member’s name, social security number, rank, address, unit's address and name, and any other information such as they are deployed to Iraq, or they are on a ship, etc. Whatever information you have to help them locate your service member is helpful.

Also- find out the name and number of the hospital where the family member passed away, or the name of the doctor and his number- an official person who the Red Cross can contact. I didn't have the number to the mortuary and nursing home, only the names. But as I talked with the Red Cross rep on the phone (via Skype may I add), we both Googled the names to find the phone numbers.

They will ask you if the service member is aware of the death, so they know to specifically state on the message to NOTIFY the member, not just request them to come home. Once they have obtained all the pertinent information, they will give you a case number. Write it down so you can check on the status later on if need be.

Red Cross more than likely has a local office if you are stationed overseas- you can also call them. Since it was midnight, the people here would have to be called in to the office to send a message. Since I have Skype, I figured it was just as easy to call the 24 hour stateside number. If the family member that passed is in a foreign country, for example The Philippines, sometimes you would need to contact their Red Cross people. That is not always the case, but I am sure your local office would tell you if need be.

I hope someone finds this information useful if need be.

Rest in peace Grandma, you are loved and we will miss you dearly.


  1. Sorry about your loss.

    Thank you for the information. I had no idea the Red Cross would do that.

  2. I'm so sorry that your family is having to deal with this. I know this has to be so hard being overseas and not being able to go home.

    That's one of my huge fears about being overseas, I'm afraid something might happen to my family and I wouldn't be there.

  3. Thank you for the kind words. They are letting Hubby go home, which is great news. I just wish I could go too!

  4. I'm so sorry. I know how very lonely it is to receive this kind of news all alone and over email. So lonely. So frustrating. I'm glad to hear your husband will be able to make the trip. That's something at least. Take care and hang in there.


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