Military blood program needs units for injured service members

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Armed Services Blood Program for the Army National Guard is in Region 8 to raise blood units for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Volunteers with the Fort Leonard Wood Blood Donor Center in Missouri, 875th Engineer Battalion, Jonesboro Fire Department, 911 Center and Kiss FM were helping raise 250 units of blood Sunday.

"The majority of our blood is going to go to Iraq and Afghanistan, so it's a way for the civilian population, the retirees, the National Guard to come out and support the military program," said Lt. Col. Dale Deehr.

Deehr is the Officer in Charge of operations at the ASU Armory, which will be the site for the blood drive Monday and Tuesday from 8-5.

According to Mark Salcedo, Blood Donor Recruiter for the Armed Services Blood Program, the program is hoping to obtain 750 units of fresh blood to be shipped overseas. Salcedo said a donor must not have been out of the United States for 1 year and pass a brief questionnaire and test before giving blood.

Deehr said some of the blood collected will be sent to military hospitals.

"It's going to be sent to one of our other main hospital areas like Fort Sam Houston Texas, and that's our primary area for burns. So if the soldier has been hit by an IED and they have burns on them, they'll wind up at Fort Sam Houston," said Deehr. "Blood itself is only good for 42 days, so every 42 days that unit has to be replenished with another one. We're using a renewable resource because that's why we'll have the donors come in every 56 days that they can donate."

Major General Bill Wofford of the Arkansas National Guard came to Jonesboro from Little Rock on a Blackhawk helicopter to oversee the event Sunday. Wofford thought the event was so special, he was going to donate blood himself, but wasn't allowed because he's been to Iraq several times within the year.

"I knew that the 875th Engineer Battalion was involved in this blood donor program. I wanted to come up and see first hand exactly what the unit was doing, how the program is working and see if we want to try and export this concept and program to other parts of the state," said Wofford.

Wofford said within 5 days of the blood being donated, it would be benefiting a wounded soldier in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

"The thing that's important about blood, whenever there's a injury or a casualty, whether it's over here or in the United States, the expediency of providing blood to the casualty, is critical as to whether or not they survive," said Wofford. "It helps the morale of our soldiers, and lets them know that they're not alone. They're not fighting for something that they're not being supported in. I think that's what's critical. It doesn't take somebody coming down here to give blood to support our troops overseas. It certainly helps, but there are other ways of doing it, just to let them know that they're not doing this alone."

According to the Army, the survival rate of a soldier who sustains life-threatening injuries is 92% when blood is available immediately. Salcedo said that's the highest survival rate for the United States during any time of war.

"Your blood will help 3 people survive. You're not only going to contribute to the war fighters and helping these young men and women make it through if they've ever been hurt or injured, but you're also helping support the civilian population," said Deehr.

Wofford said he has heard how northeast Arkansas reacts to charity events and other important fundraisers. He said the outpouring of support by northeast Arkansans has been tremendous.

"Ever since the global war on terror has been going on, Jonesboro and this part of the state has been totally supportive of the military, the active military as well as the Guard and Reserve, and I think it's just outstanding that they've even gone to this level," said Wofford. "I think northeast Arkansas kind of sets the standards. They're the frontrunners or trailblazers, it seems like, when it comes to support. We get tremendous support throughout the entire state. Communities bend over backwards but what we've seen here in northeast Arkansas, with the welcome home salute for just this part of the state, is being unique."

Deehr said it's vital a soldier receives the amount of blood they need to survive quickly.

"Personally, I'm a reservist. My whole crew is reservists that have been mobilized. I have soldiers from Texas, Kansas, Nebraska. Myself, I'm from Missouri. I personally had one patient, well, I've had 3 patients, that have used 60 units of blood in an 8-hour period," said Deehr.

Impact of Sufficient Blood Reserves

Austin Phillips with the 875th Engineer Battalion was deployed to Iraq for 3 months when he was attacked and injured near Camp Taji south of Balad. He was injured January 2nd.

"We were on patrol and some kids came running out of a market just north of Camp Taji. It's approximately 40 miles north of Baghdad. We had 3 grenades thrown at our truck. One of them landed above the truck, filled the truck with smoke. The second one landed on the hood, exploded on the hood and I caught a lot of shrapnel from it. And the third one, I was driving, the third grenade actually came down through the gunner's hatch and exploded inside the truck," said Phillips.

Phillips was taken to the 216th Army Support Hospital in Baghdad along with another soldier. Phillips said doctors had to repair a damaged artery in his neck.

Phillips said if it weren't for the military doctors and supplies, he wouldn't be alive.

"It's very important. In a combat zone like that, it's almost a daily occurrence when somebody needs blood," said Phillips. "If it wasn't for events like this, there's a very very good possibility that we wouldn't have had the supplies we needed and we would lose lives because of it."

Phillips said he'd like to see more blood fundraisers for the military throughout the state.

"It's a great cause. If you can't come out and roll up your sleeve for a soldier, you may not deserve the freedoms that we provide for you," said Phillips.

"I want to express my sincere appreciation to everybody in northeast Arkansas. You've got a fantastic community here. Great support and without it, our soldiers couldn't do what they do everyday," said Wofford.

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