Thursday, May 22, 2014

#TBT | Voices From Home

It's National Military Appreciation Month so naturally we were excited when we uncovered news articles about the "Voices From Home" program of the Vietnam era. 

From the days of the Civil War, the Red Cross has played an important part in keeping troops and their families connected. While the manner in which the Red Cross helps maintain communications has evolved, the spirit remains the same. 

The American Red Cross Charter of 1905 provided the official foundation for what is now known as Service to the Armed Forces. Part of the duties outlined in the charter include providing communication services between Americans and the U.S. Armed Forces.

During the war in Vietnam, the American Red Cross handled more than 2.1 million emergency communications between servicemen and their families. The Red Cross began a new program around the holidays called "Voices from Home," which made it possible for troops thousands of miles away to hear their family's voices.

Families who wished to participate in the program would record messages and thousands of these recordings were delivered to troops overseas. It was widely believed that the tapes helped boost morale. Separated families and servicemen often remarked that hearing a loved one's voice was the closest thing to being reunited. 

Red Cross Volunteers at the Chapter House in Arlington and across Northern Virginia helped family members prepare 13-minute tapes to be sent to the Red Cross Field Director who was located nearest to the serviceman's post or base. The Field Director would then privately play the tapes to the servicemen. Accompanying the taped messages were candid camera shots of the family as it sent its greetings. 

Each tape was highly individual. Families sang songs, children played musical instruments, young brides greeted their husbands, dogs barked, and cats meowed. 

"Words of Holiday cheer across the miles will be so welcome. Even the bark of a family dog." Mrs. James L. Baldwin, Chairman of "Voices from Home," Red Cross Chapter House, Arlington, November 1967.

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