Edward Bush says that surprisingly, life in the military – including more than 30 years with the Army and Louisiana Army National Guard – isn’t that different from his second career as a humanitarian working for the Red Cross.
“I find myself walking in a lot of the same circles, doing a lot of the same things and staying connected to something that I think is very good – is well worth my time and my best effort,” Bush said. “I meet people that inspire me to try a little harder to do what I can, and it’s very satisfying for me professionally and personally.”
Bush currently serves as executive director for the Capital-Area West Chapter of the American Red Cross of Louisiana, a role he’s held since summer 2020.
His first interaction with Red Cross was on deployment overseas when he supported the delivery of emergency communications messages to his soldiers. He says that getting soldiers home to their families in times of crisis was critical for his command’s morale.
As he transitioned into different roles throughout his career, he coordinated yellow ribbon ceremonies and took part in risk reduction, family programs, resiliency and suicide prevention, often finding himself collaborating with members of the Red Cross.
Upon entering civilian life, the similarities between his time in the military and his new role with the Red Cross weren’t initially obvious. But as time went on, he realized how seamlessly these two careers aligned.
A month into his new role, Hurricanes Laura and Delta devastated Southwest Louisiana. Red Cross disaster relief teams were activated in the aftermath, providing food, safe shelter, emergency supplies, comfort and care to communities that needed it most. One of the more heavily populated areas impacted by the storms was the city of Lake Charles.
“I didn’t even know what I was going to Lake Charles to do, but I needed to go,” Bush said. “And it was very interesting because I went into my closet and I got a pair of jeans, and a Red Cross shirt and my vest and I grabbed my boots. I put on the boots that I had worn in Iraq and Afghanistan — it felt right.”
Amid the devastation of the 2020 hurricane season, Bush experienced many moments that reinforced he had found his new mission in life. One such moment arose as he met with elders of the Houma tribe, a Native American tribe based in Louisiana.
“On a whim I grabbed a box of these stuffed animals that I had in my office… And we went and visited and I showed them to one of the elders in the tribe, and she teared up and she came over and gave me the biggest hug and then I got teared up,” he said.
Bush recognized what a simple gesture of providing comfort and care to those who have gone through so much heartbreak could mean.
“To have that moment with another person out there in the middle of all that is powerful, and it changes you,” he said. “I’m just thankful for those experiences, and I’m very lucky to have some very powerful ones that have connected me with people and I’m still getting to do that today.”
Bush is a firm believer that service to one’s community doesn’t have to end after a military career ends.
“I would encourage anyone in the military as you’re approaching that retirement to take a look at the Red Cross or some other organization who exists to help others, because it really does fill that void that I think would have been created in me personally.”