By Mason Anthony, Communications Volunteer
More than 20,000 veterans serve as American Red Cross volunteers. One of those volunteers is Ray Quintana, a long-term American Red Cross volunteer and Vietnam Veteran, who recently was a passenger on a Central Valley Honor Flight. He joined 67 other veterans who traveled to Washington D.C. to see the monuments dedicated to their service and sacrifice.
We asked Quintana what the experience meant to him, and how he continues to serve his country after their military service through the Red Cross.
How was your experience with Central Valley Honor Flight and what was your favorite part?
It was a great experience. My favorite part would be the way we were treated, with honor and respect. Also, the camaraderie between all the veterans and meeting some of our local officials like Congressman Jim Costa and Congressman David Valadao.
What did it mean to have your Red Cross friends waiting for you when you returned home?
It meant the world to me. I almost had tears in my eyes when I saw them standing there. This September for me will be 18 years of volunteering. Recently, I volunteered at Sound the Alarm in Hanford to help install smoke detectors. But nationally, the last one I went to was in Florida to help with Hurricane Ian. I got there about a day and a half before it hit to help get ready for the storm.
Over the 18 years as a Red Cross volunteer, tell us how your experience has been?
It has been really good for me. I am a Vietnam veteran and I have issues sometimes with the things that happened over there in ‘Nam and this has helped me tremendously because I enjoy helping others. It is very rewarding for me.
As a matter of fact, on the flight home, we were three hours late. We were supposed to be back at about 6:00 p.m. but instead, we got back by 9:00 p.m. I thought ‘it is late, there is not going to be anyone there’ but I was wrong, and it was packed with people to greet us with a band playing the bagpipe. That was emotional for me, and that almost brought tears to my eyes.”
In communities near and far, you can find Red Cross volunteers rolling up their sleeves and helping service members, veterans and their families. The American Red Cross provides support to the U.S. military community at every step of their career — from the time a service member takes their oath to navigating life as a veteran and each event in between. You can find support at military hospitals, on installations locally and overseas and through local chapter offices in every state. Learn more at redcross.org/saf