From Veterans to Volunteers

The month of November is dedicated to the celebration and remembrance of our military veterans. In honor of Veterans Day this Nov. 11th, we’d like to introduce you to  former military service members who have decided to continue serving their country through the American Red Cross.

Frank “Mac” McNell

Mac was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War. In 1996, after serving for 26 and a half years, he retired as a Sergeant Major. In 2004, Mac decided to volunteer with the American Red Cross. Applying the problem-solving skills he honed during his Military service, the Red Cross deployed Mac to Louisiana to aid the director and assistant director during Hurricane Katrina. “Anytime there was a problem, they would send me out, and I would take care of it.”

While there, Mac would answer questions from residents affected by the storm, support volunteers in the shelters, and identify and resolve any other problems that would come up. Recognizing that these situations can be overwhelming for those not accustomed to the chaos of disasters, Mac was more than happy to be able to contribute and establish stability. “With my experience in the Army, I would fix the problem because I don’t have ‘can’t’ in my vocabulary,” Mac said.

After seeing how his skills and experience in the military has helped the Red Cross, Mac seeks to help other veterans find their place in civilian life. Mac believes that veterans are uniquely qualified to volunteer with the American Red Cross, “Where they used to help other countries, now they can help their communities.” 

Roberto Bonilla

Roberto Bonilla was introduced to the American Red Cross when an Army recruiter suggested he become CPR certified in 1994. After completing the Red Cross CPR and First Aid certification courses, he has consistently sought out Red Cross chapters throughout his military career, nationally and internationally.

At his first duty station at Fort Sill, Roberto noticed a need for bilingual CPR instructors. He volunteered to help on the weekends, stating that “it felt good to help.”

As he was deployed across the country and world, Roberto utilized the information and skills he gathered as a military serviceman and Red Cross volunteer. Despite constantly being on the move, Roberto was always drawn to a Red Cross chapter. “The directors and other volunteers were very warm, and they were accepting. They really represented the American Red Cross creed.”

Since retiring from the Army in 2016 as a Sergeant First Class, Roberto has been volunteering for the Red Cross consistently in various ways, including bringing awareness to programs offered to military members and their families such as the emergency message services in which the Red Cross acts as a liaison between the family and military in cases of emergency on the home front. 

“It’s not just one thing,” Roberto said. “There are a lot of things that volunteers can do.”

If you would like to volunteer for the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces, please visit redcross.org/volunteer.

From Veterans to Volunteers