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Saving Lives Starts with You: Celebrating and Thanking Donors during National Blood Donor Month

Image of US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Angel Alvarado, a combat graphics specialist, donates blood for the Armed Services Blood Program. U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Angel Alvarado, a combat graphics specialist with Marine Corps Forces Command, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, donates blood for the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP) outside Hopkins Hall Gym, on Camp Elmore, Norfolk, Virginia, June 21, 2021. The ASBP helps promote the newly opened Human Performance Center (HPC). The HPC is currently only open to Marines, active and reserve. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack Chen/released)

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Armed Services Blood Program

This January marks the annual observance of National Blood Donor Month. Donations from generous individuals allow the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP) to continue to provide lifesaving blood products to service members and their families in their times of need.

For 70 years, voluntary donations have allowed the ASBP to source and deliver safe and effective blood products to warfighters at the edges of the battlefield and to their families all around the world. The ASBP is forever grateful for the selfless support that donors have shown over the decades.

"Oil is often referred to as 'liquid gold' for its usefulness and value but, as far as I'm concerned, blood is the true liquid gold," said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, the senior enlisted leader for the Defense Health Agency.

"Blood donation is the gift of life. As health care providers, blood donors, and recipients, it's up to us to talk about the importance of blood donation and donate when we can. All the medical expertise in the world doesn't matter if we don't have the necessary tools for the task, and one of the most vital tools we have is blood."

"The need for blood is constant, and it's up to all of us to roll up our sleeves and meet that demand," Gragg said.

National Blood Donor Month, established by a presidential proclamation in 1969, was created to address blood shortages during the winter season and to thank donors who supported the nation's blood supply throughout the past year. Historically, donations decrease in January due to several factors: people are on leave, vacations are planned, schedules change, weather conditions impede, or illness comes in to play. However, lifesaving doesn't take a break. Blood donations are a constant need but especially so during this time.

Despite the immense challenges brought forth by the pandemic, the ASBP continues to overcome these difficulties thanks in large part to committed donors and supporters who understand the mission. With effective safety protocols, blood drives were still held this year with great turnouts from generous donors, including the summer donation drives scheduled during Army ROTC Cadet Summer Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and at local ASBP donor center collections across the world.

"Donors are the heart of the program," ASBP Division Chief Army Col. Audra Taylor explained. "We are forever grateful for their unwavering support throughout the decades, and their continued support especially now during a global pandemic."

The ASBP donors and supporters are committed to the mission at hand. Take for example, Army Maj. Mallory McCuin, Executive Officer, Troop Command-Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, has been an exemplary donor and a tremendous advocate, donating at Armed Services Blood Bank – National Capital Region mobile drives.

When asked what motivates her to work with the military's blood program on a regular basis, McCuin explained that "I enjoy giving back to the community. As an Army nurse, I have administered blood to numerous critically ill patients over the course of my 13-year career. I know the importance of this lifesaving treatment and have seen it save countless lives."

Then there is Navy Petty Officer Jesse Lamb, a Navy military training instructor who has also been an outstanding help to the ASBP.

"He has been a true blessing to the Naval Medical Center San Diego Blood Donor Center and the ASBP," said Doreen Rekoski, NMCSD BDC blood donor recruiter. "The success of our program can be largely attributed to his willingness to give us easy access to the students and his total support of the program."

"I've always loved volunteering," said Lamb, "and hearing about a shortage of blood due to COVID, I couldn't help but want to assist in any way I could. It's all about saving lives." Because of his passion to save lives, Lamb's selflessness has helped bring in approximately 300 whole blood and platelet donations over several drives.

Not just active-duty service members support the program but also many times civilians as well. Terry and Linda Glick began donating during the pandemic when they heard that there was an urgent need for plasma from donors who have recovered from COVID-19. When asked about the couple and their accomplishments, Carl Norman, blood donor recruiter, Fort Leonard Wood Blood Donor Center, Missouri, explained that "We really appreciate the Glicks and others like them who truly demonstrate their compassion for others…we need more people to follow the Glicks' example."

When answering what inspired them to start donating plasma, Linda Glick stated, "My husband and I both had and recovered from COVID-19 and wanted to help the Soldiers and others in the military heal faster. So, we decided to start giving plasma then and have been doing so ever since."

There is no substitute for blood. It is needed year-round. A blood donation has the potential to save the lives of up to three warfighters, their family members, retirees or veterans in need. Join the ASBP in celebrating National Blood Donor Month by scheduling a time to donate at www.militarydonor.com.

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.

About the Armed Services Blood Program

Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP) has served as the sole provider of blood for the United States military. Our mission is to provide quality blood products and support to military health care operations worldwide. The ASBP collects, processes, stores, and distributes blood products to service members, their families and retirees in peace and war. In an ASBP Enterprise view – Military Health Affairs, Defense Health Agency, Service Blood Programs and Combatant Commands – we operate under common goals, metrics, procedures and work together to shape the future. Our program also works closely with our civilian counterparts in times of need to maximize the availability of this national treasure.

To find out more about the ASBP or schedule an appointment to donate, please visit www.militarydonor.com. To interact directly with ASBP staff members or get the latest news, follow us @militaryblood on Facebook, Twitter and @usmilitaryblood on Instagram.

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