Q: A little background: How long have you been with the Red Cross; what is your job now and what other jobs have you had over the years?
A: I have been working with the Red Cross for six years. I was hired as a Disaster Response Specialist and was promoted to Disaster Program Manager in Cleveland. Now, I am the Regional Director of Service to the Armed Forces. I moved here from Cleveland with my fiancé, Jess, in November 2015.
Q: What drew you to want to work for the Red Cross in the first place?
A: I started volunteering on a Disaster Action Team. After the Haiti earthquake, I was moved to donate my time to ease human suffering. Ultimately, I wanted to deploy to large disasters and help those I saw on the news. I did not realize that disasters happened on a daily basis and help was needed right in my community. I served as a Team Leader for about six months before I applied for a paid staff position.
Q: As the regional SAF officer, what’s your military background? How did you get interested in the military? Did you have GI Joes as a kid?
A: My military career started in 2010, after I graduated Ohio University and before my school loans needed to be paid back. I had trouble finding adequate employment and kept seeing how many benefits were available to service members and veterans–including the student loan repayment program. I signed a contract for six years, paid off my loans, deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. I never really had that much interest in the military as a kid, but I did learn to shoot from my grandpa who used to call me “Dead-eye.”
Q: Which is more realistic of military life? The movie “Stripes” with Bill Murray or the TV show “Hogan’s Heroes”?
A: I definitely identify with Bill Murray in Stripes when I think about military life. Although it is extremely regimented during basic training, the laughs, pranks and camaraderie were the things that kept us all together.
Q: Did you ever have a drill sergeant scream, “Put your toes on the line you slimy worms,” or “Don’t you eyeball me boy” like Louis Gossett Jr. in “An Officer and a Gentleman”? If not, what did they say?
A: My drill sergeants, DS Gay and DS Rhea, yelled SO much. They were fair but also very harsh. Most of the time, it was very hard not to crack up or laugh at some of the things these guys were saying. But, if you laughed, you’d get it worse and worse. But, sometimes it was worth it.
Q: We understand you’re getting married in May. What’s the plan? Are you involved at all or are you just supposed to show up?
A: May 7 to be exact, in Athens, Ohio. I’ve been pretty involved. Jess tells me I have a good eye, so I was helping with some of the decoration planning. I am also her “bulldog.” When she was having trouble with a certain vendor, she would have me call and hoot and holler, make a big stink, to get what she wants. The ceremony is in front of the Ridges, once known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum. I like to joke and say that It’s fitting that we are getting married at an asylum.
Q: Married life can be challenging. Will your military background help in that area?
A: I am really good at taking orders. Jess is really good at issuing them.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I like to sample new beers and new breweries. I make my own beer from time to time. Jess and I go hiking and visit local museums. I love the water and look forward to getting some small boat sailing or water skiing in this summer.
Q: Where was your last vacation?
A: My last vacation was to Yosemite National Forest. Jess and I met her family for some camping and hiking for a couple of days. We hiked Cloud’s Rest, which has one of the best views in the park. I was going to propose to Jess on the top but my nerves were so shot from the hike and the heights that I was afraid I was going to get down on one knee and she’d be so surprised that she would back right off the mountain. I finally proposed a couple days later near her parents house in Lake Tahoe.
Q: What’s the most exhilarating thing you’ve ever done?
A: I love to SCUBA dive. I’ve been skydiving a couple times–which comes close, but I love being under water. In some ways it is exhilarating, in other ways it is the most calming thing I’ve ever done. I do love the deep wreck dives where you feel as if you are flying. One time, I got nitrogen narcosis, looking at all the pretty fish. When I snapped out of it, I checked my air gauge and realized I was in trouble. I immediately got my dive buddy and started to ascend. I ran out of air at our second safety stop at 30 feet and had to breathe off my buddy’s secondary regulator as we surfaced. I definitely learned my lesson.
Q: What’s your most memorable Red Cross moment?
A: Before I deployed for Afghanistan, I was our chapter’s SAF emergency communication follow up point of contact. I made thousands of follow up calls to families in our area. While I was overseas, working overnight TOC (Tactical Operations Center) duty, the phone rang–it was a Red Cross SAF Specialist delivering an emergency communication message to our commander. I immediately went into “Red Cross Mode” and told the specialist that this was my day job and I was happy to help in any way possible. We got the soldier the message and he was on emergency leave in six hours. He was on the first helicopter out of Qalat headed home to be with his family.