By Alena Naiden/American Red Cross of Alaska
When Rose Geer-Robbins retired from her 21-year-long military career in March, it was not easy for her to adjust to civilian life.
For more than two decades, she served our nation, and she put her community before all else. Ending a job that lasts so long is never easy, but retiring from the military also means ending the job that encompassed your whole life.
“It’s like losing a limb,” Rose said.
Rose decided to join the American Red Cross — a decision she called life-changing because it allowed her to transition into the new world without losing the one she knew — and loved — best.
Rose became the Red Cross of Alaska Regional Service to the Armed Forces Specialist, where she now supports active military personnel, their families and those whose service has ended. She now, among other things, helps soldiers to communicate with their families, and she also helps their families to stay resilient while their loved ones are away serving.
“I still get to communicate with my military, I still get to be involved, I still get to talk to the soldiers,” she said. “I haven’t been left behind. The Red Cross has made me feel that I have not been left behind.”
Rose is not the only one who has made this transition. She explained that upon retiring from the military, people tend to gravitate toward jobs that bring that strong sense of community and mission, and the Red Cross provides that.
Working for the Red Cross is similar to military service in other aspects, too. When Rose spent two weeks responding to the Oregon wildfires earlier this year, she said it was 12-hour-long days full of stress and extremely quick, critical thinking.
“You are trying to figure out the best scenarios for unique situations, and nothing is going to go the way you think it’s going to go,” she said. “I was back into my element.”
The Service to the Armed Forces program Rose works for supports active military personnel, but also takes care of veterans. So for Rose, this year Veterans Day is not only a holiday to remember her service but to also honor the service of those she now supports.
Veterans are part of the Red Cross family.
In the same way that Service to the Armed Forces takes care of soldiers —reminding them at every step of the way that wherever duty takes them, Red Cross has their back — the program also makes sure that veterans know that they never stop being a part of the Red Cross community, whether that means helping veterans who are in a hospital and need someone to push their wheelchair to their next doctor’s appointment or running to a grocery store for a veteran who can’t go outside after a snowstorm.
“It’s just little things to make sure that if you served, we have you well past your death; you are still a part of the family,” Rose said.
Rose knows that this support is crucial for veterans because it is very easy after finishing service to get that feeling of loss that drives you to a dark place and pushes you to hide from the world.
“We are taught: you face your demons, together with your battle buddies, and then you go home,” Rose said. “But now, once you retire and move on, all your friends are scattered all over the place, and a lot of our veterans don’t get out anymore because it’s too hard. … It’s easier to stay home and think that you are making it easier for everybody else.”
She said that Red Cross staff and volunteers strive to hold veterans from following these thoughts and to remind them about the community and family they still have and will always have.
“You are not alone,” she said addressing the veterans. “Look, we might not have been next to you, but we have empathy for what you went through, and so we are not going to let you be alone right now. We are going to be your new battle buddy. And we are going to show up.”