Kathleen Butler began her career with the American Red Cross in 1981. Before realizing how her journey would begin, Kathleen felt a strong pull toward helping others and relieving human suffering. During her 38 years with the Red Cross, she has served as a volunteer (ten years) and as an employee (28 years). Kathleen started her journey with the Disaster Relief Services after a college friend invited her to a Red Cross meeting back in 1981.
While at the Disaster Relief Service as a volunteer, Kathleen showed her ability to write disaster response plans. These plans would lead her to a full-time position in the Service to the Armed Forces branch of the Red Cross. This position would take her around the world. Kathleen has served on three continents, deployed six times with the Armed Forces, and responded to approximately ten national disasters.
Kathleen has served in Asia, Europe, and North America in times of peace and war, natural disasters, and a governmental transition following the fall of the Soviet Union. U.S. troops have benefited from Kathleen’s work in Desert Storm, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq (twice), and in Afghanistan. Kathleen has often reflected on her experiences and is proud of her years of service. A dedicated member of the Red Cross, Kathleen is compassionate and a problem solver. After serving with the Red Cross for 28 years, Kathleen decided it was time for a transition back to volunteering. Kathleen left Ramstein, Germany as the senior station manager, but not before picking up a cohort in service.
While in Germany, Kathleen picked up Bubba, an eighteen- month old black-haired poodle born in 2012. As Kathleen puts it, “It wasn’t long until Bubba started stealing the show.” Bubba started volunteering with Kathleen with pet visitations and he quickly started to rack up accolades. Bubba has been crowned champion in agility three times at canine performance events. Bubba is trained in both verbal and hand commands, winning three obedience titles. Bubba’s volunteer service was also recognized, having received the Iron Mike Award at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Bubba’s services are often recognized by the patients and staff, as well.
I was able to hear two amazing stories about this exceptional poodle. Recently Kathleen’s and Bubba’s service went above and beyond. Hurricane Dorian was projected to hit North Carolina and the Fort Bragg area. For safety concerns, Fort Bragg and Womack Army Medical Center were closed, except essential personnel. Luckily, the hurricane’s path changed, and Fort Bragg received a small amount of rain and wind. The service members and staff knew that Thursdays were Bubba’s and Kathleen’s day for visiting. And in true Red Cross fashion, Kathleen and Bubba arrived on the floors and received cheers and some tears.
The final story to share is that of a last man’s wish. A patient was being removed from life support and was unable to have his service dog present. Kathleen and Bubba were able to visit this patient, giving him his final wish. This patient passed away a few hours later. Kathleen further explained to me that Bubba’s presences truly benefited, patients, family members and service members receiving mental health care. After meeting both, I can see why.
Kathleen’s wishes are for her and Bubba’s to continue to serve for many more years. Their desire to relieve human suffering is genuinely remarkable. Kathleen and Bubba are true ambassadors to the Red Cross.
Story by Robert Baird | American Red Cross
Photo Credit: Robert Baird | American Red Cross