By Staff Sgt. Patricia Deal, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, Public Affairs June 12, 2013
FORT BLISS, Texas -- Sgt. Mathew Brewer admits he is "deathly afraid" of needles. That's why, he said, he never tried to donate blood.
That is, until he found out all the blood products collected by the William Beaumont Blood Donor Center's Mobile Operations team go directly to help military service members and their Families in need worldwide.
"This is such an important cause, I decided to brave it out," said Brewer, from the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade's Information Technology office. "So when they said I couldn't donate because of my upcoming surgery, I was really disappointed. After my surgery, I will make a point to donate to the Center."
Although Brewer was turned away this time, dozens of other Soldiers, Family members and civilians from the 402nd Field Artillery Brigade did their part to help save warfighters' lives by donating blood at the brigade's blood drive here May 13.
To make it more convenient for 402nd members to donate, the Mobile Operations team set up at the brigade's headquarters building. The William Beaumont Blood Donor Center is part of the Armed Services Blood Program, the official military blood program of the United States.
"Knowing that the blood donated here is going to support the Soldiers downrange and maybe save a life is what makes these drives so important," said Sgt. 1st Class Jae Haney, brigade medic. "I've deployed six times, and I've seen lots of my battle buddies have blood transfusions, so I know firsthand just how critical that blood supply is downrange."
One unit of blood donated by one person can save up to three lives, according to the ASBP's web site.
Many of the Soldiers injured downrange require blood products to survive. If those products are not available, by the time it takes to get the patient to another treatment center he or she could die.
Haney said that just more than 50 people volunteered to donate, but only half of them were eligible, due to the Blood Donor Center's stringent screening requirements.
"We have to conduct a thorough screening process to help keep donors healthy and ensure the integrity of the blood collected," said Joel Braymen, manager of the Blood Donor Center's Mobile Operations.
Certain criteria will make some potential blood donors ineligible to donate. But, Braymen added, sometimes it's just a matter of iron levels; after diet changes and rest overnight, those people may be able to donate the next day.
Sgt. 1st Class Heather West, 402nd FA Headquarters and Headquarters Battery's unit administrator, said she's been trying for 15 years to donate blood, but is denied each time because she is anemic.
"I really wanted to donate this time, but my iron level was too low--again," West explained. "So they told me to eat some steak and lots of green vegetables and come back the next day. I did, and my level was in the acceptable range. That was my first time being able to donate.
"I'm so happy I could help out my unit and fellow Soldiers."
Brewer, the Soldier who overcame his fear of needles to help his fellow service members, had convinced his wife, Erin, to come along as moral support. She decided to donate, too.
"Mathew hadn't told me about the Blood Donor Center and how the blood is used directly downrange," Erin said. "It's like military helping military, and that makes me feel proud and patriotic to have donated."