FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center and the 18th Field Artillery Brigade kicked-off Fort Bragg's celebration of Black History Month with a blood drive Feb. 2 celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Charles Drew.
Drew, an African-American surgeon, organized the first large-scale blood bank in the United States. He developed and improved ways to process and store blood plasma, instituting uniform procedures and standards for blood collection. He also created mobile blood donation stations, later called "bloodmobiles." His efforts helped save lives during World War II and his legacy continues to save the lives today.
The 18th Field Artillery Bde. presented the challenge to all its Soldiers to donate blood throughout the month and will honor the winning battalion at a ceremony scheduled for Feb. 21. The first battalion in the brigade to sponsor a blood drive was the 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment.
"Everyone is really excited to be a part of this," said Lt. Col. Doug Thomas, commander, 3rd Bn., 27th FAR. "Dr. Drew was a pioneer in the blood industry and it's an honor to be able to be a part of event that not only celebrates his legacy, but could also save the lives of our fellow Soldiers."
One of the first in line to donate for only the second time in his life was Sgt. 1st Class Bret Lowery, the equal opportunity leader for the battalion. Lowery said that he was presented with the challenge to do something different this year to celebrate Black History Month and that inspiration struck when he was home watching television with his wife.
"An old episode of 'MASH' was on and they started talking about Charles Drew," said Lowery. "That's where I started thinking beyond the basics of a cake cutting and a speech. I thought about how we should learn more about Dr. Drew and donate blood instead."
While the competition between the battalions to donate the most makes the challenge fun, many of the Soldiers lining up to give blood gave reasons that stretched beyond bragging rights for their unit and focused more on the lives they could potentially be saving.
"Our Soldiers are Soldiers every day," said 1st Lt. Henry Shannakay, 3rd Bn., 27th FAR. "The blood we give today is providing blood to another service member or their Family in their time of need. I'm glad that I get to be a part of this."
The Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center is part of the Armed Services Blood Program, which is the sole provider of blood for the U.S. military. The ASBP is a tri-service organization that collects, processes, stores and distributes blood and blood products to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and their Families worldwide. To find out more about the ASBP or to schedule an appointment to donate, visit www.militaryblood.dod.mil.
The Blood Donor Center is located in Bldg. 8-4156 Souter Place and is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. To be pre-screened, ask a question, or schedule an appointment, call 910-396-9925.