Military News

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sergeant earns award for dedicated Red Cross volunteerism

by Airman 1st Class Erica Holbert-Siebert
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

6/19/2015 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Senior Master Sgt. Michael Henderlong was recognized as the winner of the American Red Cross Exceptional Volunteer Service Award, which he received June 4 in St. Louis. Henderlong has been involved with the Red Cross since 1999, and his efforts to contribute have earned him the peer nominated award.

"I am very honored, humbled and surprised about the award," said Henderlong. "I follow the old mantra of 'paying it forward,' in that you give to the community, and the community is going to give back to you in your time of need."

Henderlong works as the United States Air Force Command Emergency Management Superintendent, and as Scott Air Force Base's Red Cross Station Chairman, which is the top volunteer for the base.

A Springfield, Missouri native, Henderlong wanted to get involved with the Red Cross when a friend volunteered with Hurricane Andrew disaster response efforts in 1992. He said it was a trigger that launched him in a new direction he is dedicated to.

The eye-opening experience of assisting those in need eventually led him to his new career field of emergency management, and he is currently working on his master's degree in the same field.

Courtney Hinton, Scott AFB Red Cross Station Manager, said "The reason I nominated him was multi-fold. He was enthusiastic to volunteer when we needed someone, and he had the experience from his 15 years of Red Cross service that helped us tremendously with new projects. He has requested to be involved as much as he can be, which is rare to find. He is also instrumental on the Services to Armed Forces Committee, which covers a 72-county region in Missouri and Illinois to help military families. Having done all these things, I felt it was necessary for him to be recognized for all of his efforts. There was stiff competition, and he was successful in beating out all those other individuals."

Henderlong knows that the help he offers to others has been there for him in the past. The Red Cross does emergency notifications for families that are overseas in order to assist military members during an unplanned issue that arises.

"In 2001, I had a family member who was passing, and I got an emergency notification to go home and take care of things," said Henderlong. "For a military member to get emergency leave to take care of an unexpected event, the military requires a Red Cross notification. This assistance is part of the Service to Armed Forces piece of the organization."

The Red Cross offers a lot of resources, including blood donation, disaster relief and helping families in need. The Red Cross also helps families find financial assistance when it's needed. The Disaster Action team, which responds to events the team overhears on the police and fire department radio frequencies, provides immediate on-scene financial and supplies assistance.

Blood donation is something many people can do to help, said Henderlong, and a rewarding aspect of taking the time to donate can be when you get an email notification that your blood donation is being used at a particular hospital.
"Just being able to give back to the community is phenomenal and being station chairman, I'm able to stay involved in all of those programs," he said.

He coordinates extensive fundraising efforts and he works as a member of the disaster action team, St. Louis chapter, where he is on call to respond to house fires and other unexpected events.

"I see a significant improvement in St. Louis organizations that are better able to assist because they are more interconnected. This helps to provide a cross-section of support with the goal of uplifting the community and helping where it's really needed," said Henderlong, "The opportunity to reach out to the community is the biggest benefit of being involved in this organization. There are programs that fill where the need is, for instance we just kicked off the summer youth program, and we urge school-age children to get involved in the community that gives them something productive to do during the summer and it works toward their college applications."

He plans a future with the Red Cross when he eventually retires, and is especially interested in getting involved in national and international disaster teams.

"There's something about being on the frontlines of disaster and helping people get their lives back together that is just very rewarding to me. That's what I do in the Air Force and that will continue on with that service with the community via the Red Cross," said Henderlong.

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