In case you haven’t already heard, January is National Volunteer Blood Donor Month. I suspect many of you haven’t, because the celebration didn’t even make the National Health Information Center’s calendar of events — not that the NHIC is exactly a household name itself.
Dan Morgan, SPC Mark Massey, 1SG Perry Meeks and the individual Soldiers of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, and 2nd Battalion, 54th Infantry Regiment, aren’t exactly household names, either, but should be — in my book. These great Americans were front and center Friday at the Fort Benning Blood Donor Center’s Volunteer Blood Donor Recognition Ceremony and I had one of the best seats in the house.
The Soldiers and civilians of the Benning Donor Center capped off a banner year collecting blood for the Armed Services Blood Program. In all, Fort Benning contributed more than 18,000 units of the 100,000 collected in 21 centers around the world. And the Soldiers of 3rd HBCT who donated 482 units before they deployed are in sole possession of the ASBP record for the most collected at a center in a single day. Wow.
Even the 4,000 cadets at West Point aren’t able to match that effort.
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Why should we care? Because blood collected on military installations by the ASBP is our blood. It’s taken from our Soldiers, civilians and family members and given right back — to the Soldiers on the operating tables in Iraq and Afghanistan, to a retiree having bypass surgery in a stateside military treatment facility, to a newborn baby with an abnormally low blood volume.
One of those ASBP success stories is Meeks, currently assigned to C Company, 2nd Bn., 19th Inf. Regt. While out on a mission in Iraq on April 21, 2008, Meeks’ vehicle rolled over the pressure switch of a mine that blew the 18-ton MRAP 75 feet from where it detonated. Five of the eight in the vehicle died, including Meeks’ gunner, squad leader and Iraqi interpreter. Badly injured and bleeding internally, Meeks was rushed to the combat support hospital at Foward Operating Base Speicher, where he received about 5 pints of blood and spent five days in critical condition.
“Obviously, I’m doing pretty well,” Meeks said. “But if it hadn’t been for the volunteers and the medical personnel and everyone involved in the ASBP, the blood I received might have been in short supply. We use a lot of blood over there. We have a lot of Soldiers getting injured.”
Double wow. And because those oft-deployed Soldiers end up deferred from donating, the donation mission ends up on the shoulders of the Army’s newest Soldiers.
Thanks, 2-54 Inf., for the 1,200 units last year. And 2-47 for the 1,000. And 2-58 for the 900.
And the Army sends its newest Soldiers-in-training home for the holiday block leave, sometimes leaving
ASBPs at training installations a little short on arms and veins from which to collect the blood. So guys like Morgan from Fox Army Health Center at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., step in and mobilize the folks around them to give when the need is still there and meet the goal for December.
When I can suppress my needle and blood phobia and give, I always wish I didn’t have the second-most common blood type. Sure they’ll take my blood, but a unit of A positive (34 percent of the population) isn’t nearly as exciting as a unit of O negative (6 percent and the universal donor) or the AB positive (4 percent) and
AB negative (1 percent). That’s why the gallon of Massey’s O negative drew special recognition as well. At 1 pint every 58 days, it takes eight consistent donations in 15 months to make the gallon.
Keep Feb. 23 open on your calendar. Better yet, if you can give, go ahead and block a portion of it off for the next big public blood drive by the ASBP. They’ll set up at the PX and in Martin Army Community Hospital.
Log into militaryblood.dod.mil to register as a Fort Benning donor. You’ll get e-mail reminders and can even schedule an appointment on a blood drive day. If you can’t give, help recruit other donors by spreading the word, or by volunteering at the drives. It’s great to see a smiling face at the cookie station.