Crossing the divide

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 24, 2003

Arms and legs won't be the only things severed by war. Communications with home by soldiers will largely be cut off, too.

According to Jane Thrash, head of the Pike County Red Cross, once the bombs start to fall, all communications between loved ones deployed over seas and people in the United States will be mediated.

&uot;Everything is going to have to come through the Red Cross,&uot; she said. &uot;Over the next 48 to 72 hours, we can expect a slowdown in communications and then, when the war starts, it will likely stop altogether except for emergencies.&uot;

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Family members and loved ones seeking to contact those stationed overseas will need to have Social Security numbers for the service member, their full name, including middle initial, rank and branch of service and the last known military address of that person, Thrash said.

&uot;The military knows their current location but they aren't going to divulge that to us,&uot; she said.

In addition to a four to six hour wait before the message gets through, stateside families can expect severe restrictions on the nature of the communications.

&uot;E-mails will shut down and there will be no cell phones,&uot; Thrash said. &uot;We will place the calls and they'll go into one of our receiving areas, either in Virginia or Oklahoma.&uot;

Calls may be limited to emergencies in which a family member dies or is ill.

&uot;If someone in the family is sick, you need to have name of the doctor and the hospital and the telephone number,&uot; Thrash said. &uot;If there is a death in the family, they need the name of the funeral home and number, so we can call the funeral home to verify.&uot;

Red Cross social services are free of charge and the non-profit organization has approximately 3,300 offices in chapters or on military installations around the world. The group not only helps military loved ones stay in touch, but also verifies emergency leave information for troops, secures emergency financial loans for travel or health and welfare needs and represents veterans seeking compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Thrash said the bulk of the demand on the organization during the war will be handled by emergency volunteers.

&uot;We've got great volunteers and I'll be on call and people just need to know that we'll put the calls through and if they have any questions or problems at all, we'll help solve it or find someone who can.&uot;

Contributions to the Pike County Red Cross - which has been financially taxed recently by providing copious amounts of disaster relief to victims of an unusually high number of house fires - can be made by contacting Jane Thrash at 566-0632.

Stephen Stetson can be reached at stephen.stetson