Tulsa Veterans Helping Soldiers Stay In Touch With Loved Ones

Sunday, May 30th 2010, 4:16 pm
By: News On 6

By Jennifer Broaddus, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Serving our country overseas takes incredible sacrifice. Soldiers work long hours, in tough conditions, without complaint. Not only do soldiers miss their loved ones, they often miss the big moments in life. 

But some Tulsa veterans are helping these heroes stay in touch.

Kenneth Hearrell, a World War II veteran, helped send and receive coded messages. Many years have passed, and he's still sending messages.

"Too old to go back, to go back in and do it again, so this is where I'm serving them now," Hearrell said.

Hearrell serves with the American Red Cross. Hearrell, and his buddy, Terry Bretlinger, work with a group of other veterans to provide service to armed forces. They send announcements of births, illness and other emergencies to men and women serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"After 28 years military and on all three sides, I got a message when my grandmother died when I was in the Navy and that was the old fashioned telegram. And then I've had the unpleasant duty of passing the messages on and briefing a couple of young troops on a death in their family and they needed to call home. So we've kinda been there, done that," said Terry Bretlinger.

And in the case a service member must come home because of the emergency, Hearrell and Bretlinger take care of the details. The message must be confirmed and facilitated through the Red Cross before any solider can go home.

"You can kinda feel their pain, cause sometimes that intake form I can complete, I can do it in 15 minutes, and there was a lady crying heavily here within the last couple of weeks and it took me nearly an hour. So you have got to have the compassion to feel their pain and work with them to get through it to get what is needed to get the job done," said Bretlinger.

The volunteers say they still get warm fuzzies when they tell soldiers about their newest family members.

And just like when they served so many years ago, Hearrell and Bretlinger say they still want to help their country.

"It's two-fold, because I'm old and retired and it gets me out of the house and you feel like you are helping somebody. You are more useful to the community and our service members' family," said Bretlinger.

The Red Cross is looking for more volunteers. If you are interested in serving, call volunteer services at (918) 831-1226. They say once trained, you can even work from home.