By Mark Walker – Red Cross volunteer, Bainbridge Island, WA
When the newly-minted USS Ralph Johnson finally arrived pier side at its homeport Naval Station Everett this spring, the American Red Cross was there to welcome and assist the ship’s crew and families.
“We’re right there making sure everyone is aware of the resources we can provide as well as those available from other service organizations,” said Eric Reevesman, regional program specialist for Red Cross’s Services to the Armed Forces program.
The Johnson’s arrival on April 27 brought 314 officers and enlisted men and women, many whose families have been moving to the area since last year.
“Our arrival to our homeport marks the end of an over two-year journey for the crew through the pre-commissioning process,” said ship commanding officer, Cmdr. Jason Patterson. “We look forward to joining our fellow shipmates on the Everett waterfront.”
Red Cross volunteers are always among those welcoming new ships to Everett, staffing a booth and distributing resource information to sailors and their families as well as treats for all while waiting for ships to reach port.
There’s a constant cycle of ship homecomings and deployments at Naval Station Everett, now home to six U.S. Navy destroyers and thousands of officers and enlisted service members. The Johnson joins the crews of fellow destroyers Momsen, Shoup, Gridley, Kidd and Sampson in calling Snohomish County home. The Johnson is named after Medal of Honor recipient Marine Pfc. Ralph Henry Johnson, who was honored for using his body to shield fellow Marines from a grenade blast in Vietnam in 1968.
The Red Cross is a fixed resource for the Johnson and all those who use the base, where Reevesman maintains an office at the command deck and oversees service-related outreach and programs as well as working with a cadre of volunteers.
The Red Cross is also there each month when Naval Station officials conduct an information brief, assuring Reevesman and the large number of Red Cross volunteers who work with current and former service members are in the loop.
The Red Cross joins the entire state and Snohomish County in giving a warm “Welcome Aboard” to the Johnson and its crew and families.