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Programs > International Social Services > Tracing and Red Cross Messages

"I am alive"
The family messages transmitted by the Red Cross can be very brief, but three words may be all that is needed to ease the minds of distraught loved ones half a world away...

Armed conflict and natural disaster leave millions of people around the globe in urgent need of humanitarian assistance every year.  Adding to the physical losses, the confusion and chaos surrounding war and natural disasters often separates families just when they need each other most.  Tragically, when families and loved ones are separated by war or disaster, their suffering is greater.  But, through the strength of the Red Cross Movement and the work of tracing volunteers at national societies around the world, including the American Red Cross, families reconnect.

Red Cross tracing services and Red Cross Messages help families locate each other, send communication and learn each other's fate.  Often these services, which are conducted between people living in the United States and their relatives living in foreign countries, may be required for several years.  In FY 00, the American Red Cross handled more than 1,761 new requests to locate people who had been separated from their relatives in the U.S. because of war, civil disturbances, and refugee movements.  Of these requests, the American Red Cross successfully located 538 people separated from loved ones.  We received more than 246 inquiries in FY 00 relating to health and welfare requests, messages to and from detainees, POWs and relatives, family reunifications, travel document requests, information and referral, and international disasters.

During the Kosovo crisis in 1999, American Red Cross chapters in Port Huron, Michigan, San Antonio and Houston, Texas, and Los Angeles, California assisted the families of the three U.S. servicemen held captive in Yugoslavia — Specialist Steven Gonzales, SSGT Andrew Ramirez, and SSGT Christopher Stone — with sending Red Cross Messages to their sons.  In FY 00, the American Red Cross handled more than 3,305 Red Cross messages to and from refugees, detainees and prisoners of war and their relatives.

To begin a search, call your local American Red Cross chapter, the critical link in your community to the vast network of the International Red Cross.

Tracing loved ones can take a long time; nevertheless, families need closure.  As part of our tracing services, the American Red Cross established the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center, a national clearinghouse for United States residents seeking the fates of loved ones missing since World War II and its aftermath.  If you are one of these survivors, the American Red Cross can help.  We have the resources to find answers to questions you've asked for half a century.  All of our tracing services are confidential and free of charge.  We search for proof of internment, forced or slave labor, or evacuation from former Soviet territories on themselves or family members.  This documentation may be required for reparations.  The American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center has helped provide information on the fate of thousands of family members missing since the end of World War II.  Your search will begin when you contact your local Red Cross chapter.

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