FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Soldiers, Families and civilians donated 30 units of blood July 12 during an American Red Cross drive hosted by USO Fort Campbell, which could save an estimated 60 patients’ lives at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital and other local facilities.
Ann Jarvis, executive director, USO Fort Campbell/Nashville, said the drive was a success and brought the community together to make a difference.
“We’re just happy to be able to support the American Red Cross,” Jarvis said. “It’s a great opportunity for everyone, and we’ve had people coming in for walk-ins as well as appointments. I think it’s amazing that everyone knows this is a need and that they’re willing to donate.”
The American Red Cross typically sees a donor shortage in the summer as Families go on vacation, according to a release from the organization’s website. But the need to distribute blood products to hospitals is a constant, said Clif Redish, interim regional donor services officer, American Red Cross Tennessee Valley Region.
“We partner with Blanchfield Army Community Hospital and make sure their local needs are met, because summer is a very challenging time for blood collection products,” said Dudley Wagner, donor resources and development district manager, American Red Cross Tennessee Valley Region. “Once those local needs are met, we make sure that area hospitals’ urgent needs are as well since community members often travel outside Fort Campbell.”
Sergeant Heidi Cottom, 6th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), donated because she knows firsthand how important blood products can be in a hospital environment.
“I worked in health care before the Army, so I’ve always tried to do my part and support blood drives,” Cottom said. “I donate whenever I can, but I just got back from Korea so I haven’t been able to donate for a while.”
She first donated blood about 15 years ago, and Cottom was happy to see the turnout at the USO from her fellow Soldiers.
“I think having a drive like this makes it accessible to a lot of people,” she said. “Especially here at the USO where there’s a large number of young Soldiers that come through and wouldn’t think about it otherwise.”
Many Soldiers made walk-in donations after stopping by the USO and learning about the drive, including Pfc. Demario Grant, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Abn. Div.
“I’m B positive, and there’s a certain plasma they can only take from people with that blood type that’s really helpful,” Grant said. “I’d encourage everyone to donate blood at least once to get a feel for it, have that sense of accomplishment and do a good deed for the day.”
Civilians also participated in the drive throughout the day, including USO Fort Campbell volunteer Monika Knighton.
“I was excited to give blood because I know there’s a big shortage, and I haven’t been able to donate the last couple of years because I’ve had surgeries,” Knighton said. “We have Soldiers who go out in the field and they need our blood if something happens to them. It’s nice to know that we can help out, and hopefully we can get more people to come out and help too.”
Grant said he would like to see more Soldiers, in particular, contribute to blood drives because they can inspire Families and civilians to do the same.
“We’re military, and people see us as the frontline of everything,” he said. “Especially when it comes to helping out organizations like the Red Cross ... I think this all plays a part in us being there to support people around the world.”