FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Soldiers are typically known as a generous bunch, giving their time, resources and even their very lives to help people and defend the cause of freedom around the world. The Fort Wainwright and Fairbanks communities recently witnessed the generosity of Soldiers on a local level when B Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division hosted a blood drive Oct. 6 showing that their commitment to giving is alive and well here at home, too.

Company Soldiers, leaders and the family readiness group worked together to create a blood drive matching the desire of Soldiers to give back to the local community with the serious need for blood from healthy donors to support emergencies and illnesses in the Fairbanks community and throughout Alaska.

"A lot of people don't realize that there is a constant need for blood between emergencies and chronic illnesses at the hospital. And there is a huge pool of healthy donors at Fort Wainwright," said Tashina Bennett, donor center technician, Blood Bank of Alaska, and wife of Staff Sgt. David Bennett, B/3-21st.
Tashina Bennett said the idea for the company blood drive came from her husband's desire to give blood when he returned from Iraq last year.

Since there is usually a 12-month deferment period for Soldiers who want to donate blood but have recently deployed, organizing a unit blood drive after they passed the one-year anniversary of 1-25th SBCT's redeployment seemed like the best idea, she said.

"We got a huge response," she said. "We had 80 people sign up. We can only take 30 because of our time limit, but 80 Soldiers signed up to do it."

Blood Bank of Alaska is the only blood bank in the state and serves 25 hospitals, including Fort Wainwright's Bassett Army Community Hospital. "We supply Fairbanks Memorial Hospital with blood when they need it and we also supply Bassett," Tashina Bennett said. "It's good for (Soldiers) to be able to give back and it's nice for the community to see that they're willing to give back."

David Bennett gave blood for the first time during the company blood drive and said he was not nervous. "I've had enough IVs in the Army that this shouldn't be much different; it's just blood going out instead of fluid going in," he said.

For Staff Sgt. Ryan Waldrop, B/3-21st, giving blood is just one more way he gives back to his local community. In addition to working with the adopt-a-highway program, Waldrop is also a volunteer firefighter with the North Pole Volunteer Fire Department.

"I just like helping people," he said. "I just like helping the community. It seems like on deployments I'm always helping other people, but never have the chance to help Americans. This is my way of giving back."

For more information about local blood drives or donating blood, call the blood bank at 456-5645.