CAMP PENDLETON, CA - Members of the American Red Cross held a press conference last week with the 1st Marine Division to proudly announce that Red Cross emergency messages would now carry both ‘Dear John letters’ and sports scores.
“For the longest time people have only associated Red Cross emergency messages with things like the death, severe illness of a family member, or birth of a child,” said William Gossett, regional manager for the Red Cross’ western district.
“But now we can also inform you that your favorite football team just won the big game, or that your wife is leaving you due to your sexual inadequacy.”
According to Gossett, multiple surveys over the past two years showed the majority of deployed servicemen and women were overwhelmingly in favor of adding both.
Message-traffic has increased ten-fold in the days since the policy change, going from 68 messages a day to over 700.
Reactions by deployed personnel have varied.
“Yeah, it’s totally cool,” said Corporal Chris Dirksen. “We were in the middle of a firefight when this Osprey came in low over the battlefield and said: ‘CORPORAL DIRKSEN! THE NATIONALS HAVE BEAT THE CARDINALS 7-4!’ I was so stoked I actually high-fived the Taliban I was slicing open with a bayonet!”
Sergeant Shaniqua Johnson, with Explosive Ordnance Disposal, had a different story.
“I was right in the middle of placing a charge on this 400 pound command-wire IED when my Battalion Sergeant Major comes rolling up in a truck yelling, ‘Sergeant Johnson! Gary says it’s over! Keep the kids! He doesn’t care!’”
“I suppose it wouldn’t have been that bad if my Staff Sergeant hadn’t immediately asked if that meant I was single now.”
Although the Red Cross’ actions have been highly applauded by the service chiefs as “waking up to the reality of deployment,” the move may very well bankrupt the Red Cross organization over time.
Red Cross officials have privately spoke about being overwhelmed by the influx of requests. Three of their dedicated servers have shut down due to the massive increase in traffic and dozens of employees have quit for stress-related reasons.
The Red Cross has already begun revamping the entire program.
One official, speaking off the record, said “the Red Cross messages used to be relatively costless for us, as the only expenses needed were the manpower to make the phone call or send the email. But if this keeps up we may be broke in as little as four months.”
Duffel Blog investigative journalist Fernando also contributed to this report.