By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
A lot of military families give to charity during certain times of the year, like the holidays, but one they should always be thinking about is giving in a way that’s crucial to injured service members – blood donations.
The winter months are slow for blood donation centers, but it’s actually a key time to donate. That’s why January is National Blood Donor Month.
“We hope to remind people to remember to give that gift of life,” said Navy Capt. Roland Fahie, the director of the Armed Services Blood Program, which supplies blood products to deployed and injured American troops worldwide. “We still have troops out there … who are still in harm’s way.”
The ASBP has to keep a steady supply of blood, platelets and plasma on hand at all times for wounded service members, and it has to be prepared when military operations or crises come up.
“We always have to be ready. We don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring for us,” Fahie said. “Our folks are working 24/7 to make sure we can support any contingency operation around the world.”
You don’t have to look any further for proof of how important blood supplies are to the ASBP than Army 1st Lt. Nicholas Vogt. Vogt received more than 500 units of blood – more than any other survivor in U.S. combat history – after stepping on a roadside bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2011.
Vogt’s heart stopped five times before he was stabilized and he lost both of his legs. He received a majority of his blood transfusions while in Kandahar, with much of the supply coming from more than 300 service members on post who rallied to help him.
Vogt survived and has since received the Bronze Star. Needless to say, those who gave their time to give blood helped save his life. But it’s a mission that can be challenging for the ASBP.
Clearing Up Donation Confusion
Contrary to what many service members believe, the ASBP is the only outlet that specifically collects blood for the military community. Civilian organizations such as the American Red Cross work with the ASBP in times of need and will collect donations on military installations, but most of that supply doesn’t go to military members.
Fahie said it can be a challenge to clear up that confusion.
“[Service members] may see an American Red Cross vehicle or some other agency on their base, and they’re thinking they’re supporting the military directly, but they’re really not,” Fahie said. “The primary mission of a civilian agency is not really to support the military. Our primary mission is.”
The only way to ensure your donation will go to support service members is to look for the ASBP blood drop logo. Donors can give blood at any of the 20 ASBP donation centers on military installations around the world, or when mobile blood drives are held.
Those interested in doing so can sign up to make an appointment online. Anyone can donate, but the most frequent donors are service members and Department of Defense civilians and contractors, Fahie said.
Since many military members can’t donate because of deployments that restrict them from doing so, the ASBP often looks for new donors at schools within the DoD, and it focuses on repeat business.
“It makes it more challenging for us, and it does impact the blood supply and our efforts to collect blood,” Fahie said.
But it’s an endeavor he said is more than worthwhile for the heroes it helps.
“We want to thank our troops who always support us – our soldiers, airmen, Marines, coastguardsmen, sailors and their families – the ones who come out day-in and day-out to donate and are a champion for our program,” Fahie said.
So if you’re looking for more ways to give this year, consider this small gift. You never know who might need it someday.
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