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American Red Cross donates war items

Melissa Topey • May 27, 2014 at 6:40 PM

The Red Cross gives more than blood.

The Firelands Chapter of the American Red Cross recently donated to the Ohio Veterans Home Museum memorabilia that tells the story of the organization’s service in both World War I and the Korean War.

The organization donated a cloth drawstring-style World War I “Diddy Bag” that a soldier received from the American Red Cross while on the battlefield.    It would have contained socks, stamped envelopes, cards and other necessities of home.

The Diddy Bag was often a godsend to soldiers in the field, at times coming when supplies were low or nonexistent.

The Red Cross also donated two recording devices, known as Edison Voicewriter Dictaphones, in which messages were sent back and forth from soldiers to loved ones. Other items donated: knitting instructions from the Red Cross to volunteers who made sweaters and socks for soldiers, as well as a transcript of a journal kept by then-Vickery resident Sgt. John Junior Minier, of the U.S. Army, during the Korean War.

The American Red Cross knew how important it was for loved ones at home to hear the voices of the soldiers who were at war overseas. The organization has been bringing that comfort to those serving in the military and their families since the Korean War — long before cellphones and the Internet — with a program called Voices from Home.

The organization used Edison Voicewriter Dictaphones and thin red vinyl “Diamond Discs” to record messages between soldiers and loved ones.

“I will be leaving the Red Cross on Aug. 8. I wanted to make sure these items would be preserved,” said Ron Rude, director of the Firelands chapter of the Red Cross.

The items had been in storage in the building on Central Avenue for years. Now anyone who wants to see them can visit the Ohio Veterans Home Museum in Perkins Township.

Jim Barnard, curator of the Ohio Veterans Home Museum, was excited when he saw the items. The museum’s collection is entirely donated, and it had yet to tell the story of the Firelands chapter of the Red Cross.

“When (Rude) called, I knew it was something we would want” Barnard said.

The museum is already displaying the larger Edison Voicewriter device. The other items will soon be on display. As a Vietnam War veteran, Barnard understands the importance of recordings. “It would make my day when I got a tape,” he said. “It was more personal than a letter because we could hear the voice, the emotion” The museum has been an emotional place for those who live at Ohio Veterans Home. It’s free and open to the public.

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