Red Cross Messages: The Essential Details


About three weeks into my husband’s one year unaccompanied PCS tour overseas, I needed to make my first Red Cross message in his career. My stomach sank as I had to call my husband and let him know his Dad was sick. 

As an Air Force spouse of eleven years, this was a call I’ve never had to make in years prior. And initially, I knew I had to call The Red Cross Hero Care Center but I didn’t know what information to have ready to go. 

A Red Cross message is a way to communicate to your service member during times of emergency or crisis. It’s facilitated by the American Red Cross Hero Care Center and they handle the communication of vital information between you and your service member’s unit. 

Through all the emotions I was feeling in that moment, I was brought back to all the briefings and resources they tell you about as you prepare for a PCS or deployment. 

But my brain went blank with what I had learned for this kind of situation. And honestly, I had filed those details under the do not open tab in my brain because I had hoped to never need it. 

However, on this day, I did. 

With a quick Google search, I was able to access the Red Cross emergency communications website and start collecting the details I needed to start the process of sending the message and contacting my husband and his command. 

These seven pieces of information helped me get started with the request:

  1. Service member’s Full Name 
  2. Service member’s Rank
  3. Branch of Service 
  4. SSN and Date of Birth 
  5. Military Unit Address 
  6. Name and contact information for the family member
  7. Emergency details (what happened and where it can be verified i.e. a hospital) 

This is also where I learned that communication with the staff at the local hospital where my father-in-law was located was crucial. I explained to them that they could be expecting a call from the Red Cross Hero Care team to verify what has happened so that it could be passed along to my husband’s unit. 

Though there’s two ways to submit the communication request, phone or online, I happened to make a phone call that morning in the early hours and spoke to a very empathetic specialist. I remember feeling like I was unprepared but also giving too much information at the same time. I recall asking a lot of questions so I understood what to expect going forward. 

And as I was speaking to the specialist, it was explained to me that emergency leave based on the information they collect and give to my husband’s unit wasn’t guaranteed. Instead, their role at the Red Cross Hero Care Center was to follow proper channels to give his unit the initial Red Cross message and the information they needed in order to make a decision that was best for him, the family member and for the mission. 

Though I submitted my Red Cross message via phone, I received email updates every few hours as the case developed which helped ease the wonder of what was happening. 

The Red Cross Hero Care Center kept the case open for about a week. They called me to check-in on the situation periodically and offered resources that our family might be interested in like financial assistance. 

While I never wish these moments on anyone, they can happen. And now, my husband and I are ready to support other service members and their families during those difficult times. Sending a Red Cross message is never something any of us wish to do but having support from fellow military families can be crucial during those moments. 

If you ever find yourself in need of support in an emergency situation, don’t hesitate to reach out for support from your service member’s local unit, The Red Cross Hero Care Center or through Military OneSource. 

The Red Cross Hero Care Center and Military OneSource have free apps for both Apple and Android devices that offer essential resources for active-duty members, their families and veterans. The support is free, confidential and available 24/7, no matter your location around the world. You can also access The Military Mom Collective’s Guide to Deployment to find additional resources and encouragement. 


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