Meet Joseph “Joe” Golanka, Regional Service to the Armed Forces Director

Story by Bob Zamalin, Communications Volunteer, Orange County Chapter

We’re proud to announce that Joseph (Joe) Golanka has been named Regional Service to the Armed Forces Director for the Desert to the Sea Region. What does that mean? In short, he oversees the American Red Cross’ unwavering commitment to members of the U.S. military, veterans and their families in Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties.

Under Joe’s leadership and direction, our local Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) provides Red Cross services to active duty military members, veterans, and their families throughout the Desert to the Sea Region.

Currently, Joe is conducting business process reviews of the Service to the Armed Forces.  His leadership will ensure that the Desert to the Sea SAF program will remain positioned at the forefront of innovative solutions for service delivery.

Joe and Jeanne
Joe and Jeanne after the Marine Corps Marathon

Joe initially joined the Red Cross in 2016 as a Volunteer on the SAF team. It was his sister, Jeanne Hamrick, that originally encouraged him to get involved with the Red Cross. Jeanne is a Red Crosser herself, serving as a Senior Manager of Media Relations at National Headquarters. Says Joe, “I went back for a visit celebrating my mother’s birthday and I went to work with her [Jeanne]. I met a few people and learned about Service to the Armed Forces. I had the opportunity to also meet Koby Langley, the Senior Vice President of the Services to the Armed Forces team. We had a great meeting and I learned about the program and the great work that they do for veterans. When I returned home from that trip, I applied online to become a SAF Volunteer at the Desert to the Sea Region.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Joe’s first SAF project was the Veterans+ Infinity Program for Red Cross employees who are also military veterans. This program helps veterans, military families, spouses, and friends come together to be a resource for one another and the organization. The program was initially rolled out when he was a volunteer. Now, as an employee, Joe is a member of the very program he worked so hard on as a volunteer.

JGKoreanROKMarines
Joe with two Marines for the Republic of Korea

Prior to joining the Red Cross, Joe spent 20 years in the healthcare and communication industries, working for Johnson & Johnson, Abbot Laboratories, Sprint, and AT&T. Joe also volunteers with the Travis Manion Foundation and the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program. Joe earned a degree in Political Science and Business from Niagara University in Niagara County, New York.

Joe served in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) for 12 years, both active duty and reserve.

“When I made the decision to join the military after college, I wasn’t really sure what branch I wanted to join. When I went to the Marine Corps office, my initial meeting was very short, but professional. The Officer Selection Officer (OSO) handed me one piece of information, and asked me to read it, and if I was interested to give him a call the following week. At first, I thought that this was odd, as it was so very different than my previous initial discussions with the other services. I did look at all of the services and then called the USMC OSO and mentioned that I would like to understand more about becoming a Marine and he set a lunch appointment…He told me that if I was lucky enough to be chosen that I would definitely ‘hate him’ for the first 10 weeks. As it turned out, that was true. I decided after that meeting and a few subsequent meetings that it was an easy choice for me- become a US Marine Officer.”

Joe has served in a number of billets (positions) while on active duty and in the reserves, including:

Platoon Commander
Company XO
Company CO
Battalion Logistics and Supply Officer
Battalion Armory Officer

“I did a significant amount of running in the Marine Corps. The good news is that I remain a runner and compete in various races, marathons, and ultra-marathons every year,” says Joe. “In addition to helping me stay in some sort of shape, I use the events to fundraise for military charities. I connected to the Travis Manion Foundation through a friend of mine who knew Travis. I have continued to fundraise for them annually to help support the foundation, and also began last year volunteering for the 5K race in San Diego that they do annually.”

What was Joe’s favorite part about his service? “The esprit-de-corps,” he says. “The feelings of loyalty, enthusiasm and devotion to a group among people who are members of the same team. The Marine Corps is all infantry. It was never us and them but only us. I think that is the secret of the Marine Corps.”

Please join us in welcoming Joe to our team! For more information about Service to the Armed Forces, including the many programs available for military families, please visit redcross.org/military.

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