FORT HOOD, Texas (ASBP, August 7, 2009) - When Jessica Zachar opened her local newspaper and saw fellow Harker Heights High School student Stephanie Graham's picture, she was both intrigued and challenged.

Stephanie was highlighted in last week's Sentinel for donating blood as a 17 year old. With much of her family in or retired from the military, Stephanie said that she felt "obligated and like I should do something to help the troops." This statement really resonated with Jessica.

Jessica's father is currently serving in Afghanistan, so she knows the importance of supporting our military members in any way possible. Since her 17th birthday was coming up, Jessica wanted to do something special not only for herself, but for her father and his comrades. "My brother gives blood as often as he can. That's what you do," explains Jessica of her family's dedication to the military. She playfully adds that she would do her school mate Stephanie one better by donating on her actual birthday, challenging others to do the same. "I saw Stephanie giving. Always planned on giving blood when I got old enough. I want to go ON my birthday."

Accompanied by her mother Laura, younger sister Barbara, and her friend Andrea, she donated at the Robertson Blood Center on Fort Hood. This center is part of the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP), the military's official blood program. "I am proud of her," Laura said. "The whole family would donate if they could." With this statement, Laura highlights the difficulty that service members face when they want to donate, but are deferred because of recent deployments. That is why it's so important for family members to step up to the challenge and donate.

Jessica's friend Andrea was impressed with both the ease of the procedure and her friend's determination to support the troops deployed around the world. "It's pretty awesome. I spent the night at her house and we talked about it. I think she is going to hold me to coming back and donating."

For Jessica the experience was a good one. She was presented with a Military Challenge coin by the center's director, Lt. Col. Dennis Dombrowski. Jessica explained that she was issuing a challenge to other young people and family members to donate blood to the military. While some potential donors may hesitate to give because of a fear of needles, Jessica explains: "Pulling the tape off probably hurt more than the needle."

To find out more about the ASBP or to arrange a military blood drive, visit the official web page at