By Wendy ArevaloJuly 15, 2019
FORT KNOX, Ky.-- A little after 7 a.m. on the morning of July 12, 2019, Sgt. 1st Class Scotty Case and his wife, Sgt. 1st Class Kerrilee Case, were busy unpacking and setting up their table and supplies for a bone marrow registration drive in Smith Gym.
The Cases, both Soldiers assigned to 1st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC), serve as program representatives for Fort Knox's C. W. Bill Young Department of Defense (DoD) Marrow Donor Program, otherwise known as Salute to Life.
Just in the U.S. alone, more than 17,000 individuals are diagnosed with a disease that requires a bone marrow transplant. Only 70 percent of patients find a match from within their own family, according to the Salute to Life website. Patients who can't find a match in their own family rely on donors in the national registry, which contains donors recruited through Salute to Life. However, only one in 420 people find a match from an unrelated donor.
These statistics are what drive the Cases to dedicate as much of their personal time as they can to finding as many healthy donors as possible through Salute to Life.
"I know if it was my child, or my husband, or my mom, or someone close to me who needed to receive bone marrow, I would want them to do it," said Kerrilee.
For her, donating time to help others is just part of who she is.
In April 2019, she was awarded the Military Volunteer of the Year award for Fort Knox. In addition to volunteering for Salute to Life, she also donates her time to several other organizations, including the Sergeant Audie Murphy Association, Habitat for Humanity, and more.
She first became involved in the Salute to Life Program after she was recruited by the last program representative who left in 2018.
"I had gotten a message from the previous recruiter asking if I would like to take over," Kerrilee added. "She found me through me the Sergeant Audie Murphy Association."
She began learning the position in Oct. 2018 and in February her husband began joining her.
"We're best friends and do everything together anyway, so it's just natural for us," said Kerrilee, when asked about what it's like to work together and volunteer together.
Scotty said he initially began volunteering for the program because of his wife, but that he continues because he sees the importance of it.
"She just likes to volunteer, so I just jump in there and do it with her," he said. "I'm also doing it because I could potentially save a life."
Since Feb. 2019, the Cases have both contributed 40 hours of their time to the program.
A lot of time goes into planning and preparing for each event. They have to ensure they have all the supplies needed-tables, pens, registration kits, pop-up displays, brochures; then, after the event, they have to pack up all the supplies and drive to Fed-Ex to ship the completed registration kits.
Kerrilee said her husband helps her stay on track.
"With him helping, I can rely on him, I don't have to worry about something falling through the cracks," she said.
They often rely on word of mouth for local events where they might be able to recruit people. Often they piggy-back on other blood drives or other events like the Red Cross Run for the Red.
Scotty said they have also coordinated with Reserve commands to set up a registry table on drill weekends.
"We did it on a Saturday morning when a Reserve unit was drilling; we just put our uniform on and did it for three or four hours on a Saturday," he said.
They recently set up their Salute to Life booth at an American Red Cross Cadet Summer Training Blood Drive, where they were able to speak to hundreds of cadets about the program. That particular day they collected 147 bone marrow registration kits.
Drew Hester, a cadet from Eastern Illinois University, said he registered to be a bone marrow donor as a way of giving back to the Army.
"I feel like I've still got a few more years before I can do anything for the Army, so I feel like this is something I can do now to help out," Hester said. "And if there's like a three-year-old who needs my bone marrow, then this is the least I can do to give back," he added.
Registration drives such as the one held on July 12 with the cadets are the best way to reach large sums of potential donors.
Chad Ballance, a recruiter for the Salute to Life program, said the Cases have been reliable and passionate volunteers.
"Our program can't really exist without leaders like this," Ballance said. "They're stepping up and saying, 'hey I'm passionate about this, I want to make a difference.' I'm very impressed about what we foresee to happen at Fort Knox," Ballance said.
He added that he doesn't often have volunteers who are dual military.
"We're very blessed to have these guys on board. It's very rare to have two sergeant first classes take on this responsibility and with great responsibility obviously comes great reward. The reward will be that potential life saved, or many lives saved in the future."