|Randall Cain and his maternal grandmother, Christmas 1969. Cain, just 21, was enroute to being assigned to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Forty-four years ago, in May 1968, Cain was a young Marine serving at Camp Pendleton in San Diego when his mother underwent brain surgery in Washington, D.C. The Red Cross, through its Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program, contacted the Marine Corps to confirm the surgery, then loaned Cain emergency funds to fly to the East Coast and back.
Although his mother had not been expected to survive more than 24 hours, she lingered in a coma for two weeks, and Cain was able to be with her and his family during that time.
“I was just 19 and so grateful,” he said.
Cain left the Marines in 1972. Two years later, just before joining the Coast Guard, he was living in Brandenburg, Kentucky when a tornado struck, “killing 40 some people,” Cain recalls.
Although Cain survived, his apartment was destroyed. “The Red Cross provided me with blankets, silverware, cooking utensils and food that was lost,” he said. “They took care of everybody.”
Fast forward to 1984. Cain was stationed with the Coast Guard in Puerto Rico when the Red Cross again contacted his command, this time with the sad news that his maternal grandmother, who was in her 90s, had passed away. Within six months, they reached out to Cain’s command again; his paternal grandmother, also in her 90s, had died. Thanks to these notifications, Cain was able to attend both funerals, in Texas and Kentucky, respectively.
Thirteen years later, in October 1997, Cain’s dad, Carson, suffered a heart attack. Once again, the Red Cross verified this situation to the Coast Guard, and Cain was able travel from Puerto Rico to Virginia to be at his Dad’s side for a week. Two months later, the Coast Guard released Cain to fly home for his dad’s funeral after another Red Cross notification.
Cain mentioned that the Red Cross had also played a role in Carson Cain’s military career, after his unit, the 60th Coastal Artillery, Battery E, surrendered to the Japanese at the Battle of Corregidor in the Philippines May 5, 1942.
“I read a few books by survivors of the imprisonment,” said Cain. “The authors, as I recall, mentioned receiving Red Cross packages. So I believe when my dad was transferred to a POW camp in Japan, he may have occasionally gotten Red Cross packages.”
Randall Cain retired from the Coast Guard as a Chief Warrant Officer in 2000, after 26 years of service. For the past 12 years he has worked as a clerk for the NYPD at Manhattan’s First Precinct, located near the Holland Tunnel.
Most recently, this spring, Cain was scheduled for a surgery of his own—to have a pacemaker installed. His son Christian, 23 and a Marine, was stationed at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina. Cain contacted the Red Cross by phone, asking to have an SAF representative verify the surgery to Chris’s command. Chris returned home in time to see his father through a successful surgery.
“Now you just call a 1-800 number and you’re connected,” said Cain, noting how easy it has become to receive help from the Service to the Armed Forces program.
“I couldn’t have made it without the Red Cross,” he concluded.
Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) provides humanitarian support to service members, veterans and their families around the clock and around the globe, all under a trusted symbol. Through this program, the American Red Cross facilitates emergency messages about urgent news from home—a serious illness, the birth of a child or the death of a loved one—to service men and women anywhere in the world, including ships at sea, embassies and isolated military units.
Our local SAF program supports our military community in variety of ways, including support to local VA Hospitals, Keller Army Community Hospital at West Point and attending events such as deployment briefings, welcome home ceremonies and other supportive community events such as Fleet Week and the Veterans’ Day Parade.