3 ways the Red Cross impacted Birmingham’s General Krulak and how you can help now

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General Krulak cheers on the BSC football team
General Krulak cheers on the Birmingham-Southern football team. Photo via Birmingham-Southern College

General Charles Krulak is one of the most influential members of the Birmingham community. I sat down with him to learn about his experience with the American Red Cross throughout the years, and why we should consider donating during the holiday season.

About General Krulak

General Charles Krulak in uniform. Photo via USMC

I first met General Krulak during his last year as president of Birmingham-Southern College. He made a point to meet and have a meaningful conversation with each new student. Although we only spoke for a few minutes, General Krulak recognized and remembered me the second he saw me 5 years later.

Throughout his years, Krulak has led a life of service:

  • Dedicated nearly 36 years of his life to the military.
  • Served as the 31st Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • Served as Chairman and CEO of an international bank.
  • Served on the board of the Cleveland Browns and the Aston Villa Soccer Club.
  • Deeply involved with the effort to combat modern day slavery and human trafficking.
  • President of Birmingham-Southern College from 2011-2015.

1. Saw the Red Cross at a Young Age

A Red Cross Gray Lady in World War 2
A Gray Lady interacts with a wounded solider in 1944. Photo via Richmond Times-Dispatch

Krulak’s first interaction with the Red Cross happened at a very young age. During World War II, both his father and grandfather were stationed in the Pacific.

Every morning, Krulak’s mother and grandmother boarded a bus to the local Navy hospital. Their gray dresses, white collars and Red Cross pins identified them as the Gray Ladies. While at the hospital, the Gray Ladies would clean bedpans, play cards with the wounded and assist nurses.

“I looked at my mom and grandmother as heroes. They were doing things during wartime that the average person wasn’t doing.”

General Charles Krulak

2. Aid on the Front Lines

Red Cross volunteer gives coffee to soldiers in Vietnam
A “Donut Dollie” offers coffee to soldiers taking a break from the fighting. Photo via American Red Cross

During Vietnam, Krulak was stationed on the Demilitarized Zone as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. Although Krulak and others were cut off from the outside world, the Red Cross kept them in the loop. Throughout the war, the Red Cross facilitated more than two million emergency communications between soldiers and their families.

Deep in the jungle, Krulak and the other marines had to cut a path through the dense forest in order to get any food, water or mail that would come in. But what they looked forward to most were packages sent by the Red Cross.

“Red Cross packages had necessities. Toilet paper, toothbrushes, bars of soap, washcloths, chapstick and more. These were things you didn’t get from home. Your wife wasn’t sending toilet paper, she was sending goodies!”

General Krulak

3. During Natural Disasters

Red Cross volunteers deliver essentials during Hurricane Katrina. Photo via American Red Cross

After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Krulak received a phone call from President Bush asking for his expertise. Krulak told Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, that he needed to do two things immediately:

  1. Get the Red Cross to the disaster zone so they could pour their resources into the tragedy.
  2. Get an amphibious ship to the disaster zone for efficient transport of supplies.

The response to Hurricane Katrina was the largest single relief effort ever undertaken by the American Red Cross. Thanks to donations from all around the country, the American Red Cross was able to support victims of the hurricane. During their first day, they served nearly one million meals.

“There is no crisis too large for the Red Cross or the United States Marine Corps!”

General Krulak

Join General Krulak in Supporting the American Red Cross

Red Cross volunteers aid a passenger from US Airways Flight 1549, which ditched in the Hudson River in 2009. Photo via the American Red Cross

“Every dollar that you give to the Red Cross helps buy that Red Cross blanket. When the plane went down in the Hudson, who was there to help? The Red Cross. Who do you think paid for those blankets? Well, people from Birmingham may have bought them.”

General Krulak

Nearly everything given to the American Red Cross goes directly to someone in need. 90 cents of every dollar that is gifted to the Red Cross goes to helping someone affected by a disaster. 

Additionally, the American Red Cross honors donor intent. If a donation is meant to go towards a specific relief effort, the Red Cross reflects that intention. Nearly 300,000 Red Cross Volunteers help keep costs low.

The American Red Cross continues to ensure that military members, veterans and their families receive the best support and care. Today, Red Cross volunteers can be found serving in military and VA medical facilities all over the world.

This holiday season, donate money, blood or your time to your local American Red Cross. Get started at www.redcross.org/alabama.

Share your experience with the American Red Cross by tagging @bhamnow.

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  • Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.