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Blood Needed: Armed Services Blood Program Urges Donors to Step Up

Navy Lieutenant Daniel Murrish, a Sailor serving aboard Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point, donates blood during a blood drive hosted by the Armed Services Blood Program. Navy Lieutenant Daniel Murrish, a Sailor serving aboard Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point, donates blood during a blood drive hosted by the Armed Services Blood Program (Photo by Thomas Cieslak)

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The Armed Services Blood Program says donations are down and is encouraging volunteers to step up and donate blood to replenish the supply.

"Blood supply is critically low across the nation," not only for the ASBP, but for civilian organizations as well, said Army Col. Audra Taylor, the ASBP's division chief. The ASBP provides lifesaving blood products to service members, their families, retirees and veterans worldwide.

"Historically, donations decrease in the holiday and winter months due to schedule changes, people taking leave, families going on vacation, weather conditions or illnesses impeding people from donating," Taylor said.

"This year, it's all of those things in addition to COVID-19 restrictions and overall health and safety concerns for potential donors and ASBP blood donor center team members."

Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald Place, the Defense Health Agency's director, echoed the sentiments about the importance of blood donors and a steady resupply of blood products.

"Adequate blood supplies are a critical part of a ready medical force. Our medical providers must have everything they need to complete their mission, including blood. A donation can be done in as little as one hour and yield lifesaving blood products for surgical procedures, traumatic injuries, chronic illness, and cancer treatment," Place said.

Blood is Vital Year-Round

"There is no substitute for blood," said Taylor. "It's a critical tool in saving lives." Administered to treat various conditions, blood products are essential for warfighters in combat operations and for emergency use wherever they are, Taylor added.

"It's also necessary to conduct surgeries at military hospitals and clinics," she said. "It could be critical to the survival of a newborn baby. It could give treatment to those with blood-borne illnesses, with certain cancers, for burn victims."

The ASBP ensures global military medical centers, hospitals and clinics have immediate and easy access to safe and viable blood and blood products. This includes whole blood, red blood cells, platelets, plasma, and transfusible components derived from them.

"But it's not possible for ASBP to fulfill its mission if not for our donors," Taylor said.

In general, most people don't think about blood until it's needed, she added.

Additionally, blood products will expire if left on the shelf for too long. Some blood products are only viable for a few days or weeks. "It needs to be on the shelf before the need arises," Taylor said.

National Blood Donor Month

Military leaders and medical providers are very grateful for the many military community members who have participated in blood donor programs in recent years.

National Blood Donor Month was established in January 1969 to address blood shortages during the holiday and winter season and to thank donors who have supported the nation's blood supply throughout the year.

As the official provider of blood products to the U.S. armed forces and military community, the ASBP helps ensure mission readiness around the world.

"We focus on equipping the warfighter with the lifesaving blood and blood products they need on the battlefield as well as in military hospitals and clinics worldwide," said Taylor.

This includes collecting, processing, storing, transporting, and distributing blood and products to ill or injured service members, their families, retirees, and veterans around the world.

Where Can you Donate?

ASBP blood donor centers are located throughout the United States and at locations around the world.

"We have over 20 donor centers, and many of them conduct mobile blood drives around their areas and sometimes in places further away on a regular basis," Taylor explained.

"As the Defense Department's blood program, we are limited to collect at federally owned or leased properties only," she said. "But we're thankful for the many bases, academies, centers, and more that help us make mission and sponsor regular blood drives.

Ready to donate? If you are able and eligible, find a blood drive or blood donor center near you at www.militarydonor.com.

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