Woman heads to Mideast for Red Cross WAR IN THE GULF


WESTMINSTER -- Bevann Garnes says she thrives on ne experiences, but the one she is facing should sustain her for a lifetime.

Ms. Garnes, 45, of Westminster is scheduled to leave today for the Persian Gulf to work as a paid volunteer for the American Red Cross. She is the first Red Cross volunteer from the area to be sent to the war zone.

"We're all very excited and proud of Bevann," said Kay F. Hunley, director of emergency services for the Central Maryland chapter of the Red Cross, which consists of Baltimore city and Anne Arundel, Howard, Harford, Carroll and Baltimore counties.

For Ms. Garnes, who has been an administrator, business executive, educator and counselor, serving people in need is not just a commitment, it is who she is.

"I think it's important that people give of themselves," she said. "Thatis the balancing of our inner self and our outer self. I believe we are pretty much like water faucets. We get things, and if we don't give of ourselves, we get stale, just like old water plugged up in a faucet."

Ms. Garnes moved to Westminster last year from Ahwatukee, Ariz., a small town outside Phoenix, where she was doing Red Cross volunteer work, teaching first aid and other classes. She came to Maryland to help friends through difficult times, she said.

With that done, she looked for work at Red Cross national headquarters in Washington. That was when the prospect of Middle East work came up, and she was willing. She will be a contracted employee and receive pay, but duty in the Middle East is voluntary.

She is single, which she said made it easier. "I don't have the encumberances that many other people might have who would desire to be of service," she said. "I'm freer to make my own choices.

"It was an opportunity to really be of service. After all, there is service and there is service," she said. "This will really be a challenge to me."

The challenge began several weeks ago when Ms. Garnes was sent to San Antonio for training specific to the needs of the military and to the environment of the Persian Gulf. She returned Friday, leaving her two days to tie up loose ends before leaving for the one-year tour of duty.

"We had some very rigorous training in Texas, and I learned much as a result," she said. She was not allowed to discuss the training or to divulge where she will be sent, she said.

Her duty will be to keep communication lines open between military personnel and loved ones, she said.

"If a service member has any special pressing needs regarding the family or themselves, they would come to the Red Cross and we would handle it," she said. "Or if any emergency has occurred with their immediate family stateside, the message would be gotten at the Red Cross station and we would see that the service member was contacted."

Other area volunteers will probably be sent to the gulf in the near future, Ms. Hunley said.

"The Red Cross has a long history of commitment to serving the military and their families," she said. "We care deeply about being where they are, and this certainly shows in what Bevann is doing."

Ms. Garnes said she had "normal concerns" about the hazards of her undertaking. "Right now I am more worried about being sunburned and sand-whipped," she said.

But she was confident she would be protected.

"I believe our position is as safe as possible," she said. "They would not put us in a precarious position that could cause us harm, because it would shut down our much-needed communications."

And she had no second thoughts.

"I don't do anything I regret," she said. "Everything is a learning experience."

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