The New Jersey Division's Operation Red Shield began in the first few days of 'Operation Iraqi Freedom.' "The program, now one year old, "said Major Stephen Banfield, NJ State Commander, "is but another page in the history of The Salvation Army's ministry to members of the armed forces and their families, dating back to the Spanish American War."
Operation Red Shield representatives, familiar figures at National Guard Family Readiness Group functions around the state, have distributed more than 2,000 deployment kits to date. An important module of the program, the kits contain personal care and other items. Steps are underway to supply the kits to 3,000+ members of the NJ National Guard, scheduled for mobilization in the next few months.
Not limited to issuing deployment kits, Operation Red Shield works in conjunction with Community Food Bank of NJ to distribute boxes to military families, providing food for three days. Emergency financial assistance is also available to families of active duty personnel on a case-by-case basis. In the last year, more than $140,000 in aid has been provided, encompassing assistance for rent, mortgage, utility and medical bills.
"To help deployed troops keep in touch with their loved ones, we also provide pre-paid calling cards", said Scott Shepherd, Operation Red Shield Coordinator. "In fact, we've distributed 5,500+ cards in the last year."
In recent weeks, The Salvation Army's Operation Red Shield sponsored a bus trip from the Dover Armory to Fort Eustis, Virginia to allow loved ones to say their farewells to troops of the 50th MSB just prior to deployment. Also, in response to a special request from the 3-112th FA, headed to Iraq, a supply of five-gallon buckets, a.k.a. "Iraqi Laundromats," was made available for use in the field.
According to Shepherd, programs are being developed to supply toys and school supplies for distribution to Iraqi children, by military troops. Based on first-hand experience of a Salvation Army Officer, recently returned from performing relief work in Iraq, such programs will provide goodwill and foster a positive relationship for the next generation. For more information on Operation Red Shield, please contact Scott Shepherd at Division Headquarters, 908-851-9300.
Public & Community Relations Manager The Salvation Army