U.S. service members in Trinidad give the gift of life
April 24, 2008
TRINIDAD - Approximately 10 Soldiers from Beyond the Horizon - Caribbean, a multinational humanitarian and civic-assistance exercise sponsored by U.S. Southern Command and planned and supervised by U.S. Army South, rolled up their sleeves for a great cause and donated blood to help save the life of an 8-year-old Trinidad girl named Ariana Peters at Mount Hope Hospital on Apr. 22.
The idea to donate blood all started when Staff Sgt. Eric Gillman of the 222nd Military Police Company was doing his daily online check of the local news in Trinidad. He saw a news article about Ariana Peters, who was in need of O positive blood because she has a blood disorder called Beta Thalassemia intermedia, which reduced her blood count to a very low level.
Gillman, who is from Arkport, New York, showed the article on Ariana to his chain of command and asked if there was something the Soldiers could do to help her out while they were here in Trinidad. The news article Gillman had read said the attempts to get a blood supply through the blood banks in Trinidad had been unsuccessful. This fact rallied Gillman and the other Soldiers in the camp to come up with the idea to have a blood drive, something that occurs everyday in the United States.
Soldiers with O positive blood quickly volunteered to donate blood.
"If you've got the blood to spare than why not donate' You could be in the same boat later," said Marine Staff Sgt. David Means, from the 4th Civil Affairs Group. Means is from Landover, Maryland.
Then it was just a matter of coordinating with the Ministry of Health to find out if and where the Soldiers could donate blood in Trinidad so it would help save little Ariana Peters.
"A girl's life is at stake. If I can help her, that is important. She might save my life one day," said Sgt. Wrensford Ault, of the 786th Quartermaster Battalion, Virgin Islands National Guard.
"If I refused and everyone else refused, than she wouldn't have a chance to live," he added.
Once it came time to donate, it was nothing new for most of the Soldiers, who donate blood whenever they can when they are back home in the United States.
"Anything that can help anyone out, I'm in for that. Especially if a life depends on it," said 1st Lt. Ulisses Taymes, an intelligence officer for the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade. Taymes is from San Antonio, Texas.
Bernadette Peters, Ariana's mother, said she was shocked when she saw that Soldiers had come to donate to help her little girl. She thanked the Soldiers she met and told them that her daughter now has honorary aunts and uncles. Shereen Brazlon and the rest of the nurses at the blood center in the hospital also thanked the Soldiers for donating their blood.
The greatest thanks the Soldiers received, though, was seeing the big smile on Ariana's face, which reminded them of their families back home.
"It's good to see how two countries can come together and save the life of a little girl," said Maj. Kevin Pruitt, information officer team chief from the 49th Theater Information Operations out of Austin, Texas. Pruitt is from Orange, Texas.
All the Soldiers were interested in doing that day was making a difference in someone's life.
"I just wanted to help the little girl out," said Spc. Shannah Whittington, a Soldier from the 56th Signal Battalion, Fort Gordon, Georgia.
Whether they wanted to or not, the Soldiers became heroes in the eyes of an eight-year-old girl just by raising their sleeves and donating the gift of life.