Andy Womack’s first contact with the Red Cross came when he was an Army infantryman in Vietnam.
Not only did the Red Cross deliver hot meals and “Sunday packs” to U.S. forces, which included candy and cigarettes, according to Womack, the organization also signaled “neutrality” in the midst of war.
“Fighting would stop to let Red Cross out in the field” to tend to wounded soldiers, said Womack, who received the Army Commendation Medal and Combat Infantryman Badge. “They were an advocate for soldiers in the field.”
Some 45 years after Womack served in Vietnam, the Heart of Tennessee Chapter of the American Red Cross recognized him last Wednesday as its Hero of the Year during a Heroes Luncheon at Stones River Country Club that raised some $80,000.
People across the community have benefited from Womack’s efforts, longtime friend Bob Parks told the crowd.
“Those of us who saw Andy battle cancer certainly benefited from that because we saw him come out of it,” Parks said, nearly choking up as he spoke as he spoke of his friend who is now in remission.
But Womack, a 12-year state senator whose philanthropy has touched First Baptist Church, St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital, MTSU, Motlow College, United Way, Red Cross and Optimist Little League, pointed out that the “true heroes” for the Red Cross are its volunteers and donors.
A State Farm insurance agent inducted into the Tennessee Insurance Hall of Fame, Womack told the crowd that he and other agents try to be the first on the scene when disaster strikes, but there’s no way to beat the Red Cross to those areas.
“The Red Cross is there immediately providing food, shelter and clothing,” he said, recalling the center set up at New Vision Baptist Church when the Good Friday tornado struck Murfreesboro in April 2009.
Womack encouraged the crowd to give generously to the organization, which depends on the Heroes Luncheon as one of its primary fundraisers.
“This is an investment in your community,” said Womack, who spoke of his late parents and recognized his family, wife Cherry, son David and daughter Dana and two grandchildren.
Keynote speaker Lelan Statom, NewsChannel5 meteorologist, told the audience his job is “to help people be prepared when those strong storms move in.”
He pointed out that Tennessee and Alabama rank highest in the nation for the number of tornadoes and deaths, and he encouraged people to give to the Red Cross.
Regardless of the type of storm, he said, “You have seen how when disaster strikes, the Red Cross is there within minutes.
The Heart of Tennessee chapter serves eight counties, including Rutherford and Cannon, and has 278 registered volunteers. Last year, it helped 426 people in 146 families and served some 500 military service members, transmitting 100 emergency messages to active troops. The Red Cross also remains the key group in collecting blood to meet the demands of hospitals.
Tommy Campbell, of Black Box Network Services, one of the event’s major sponsors, pointed out that Womack does more than just live in Murfreesboro and Rutherford County.
“He’s vested in the community,” Campbell said. “People like Andy Womack make our community different and set us apart from others.”