HONOLULU -- Deployed as a combat medic, Sgt. 1st Class James Lee was well aware how important having a reliable supply of blood is.

During a deployment to Iraq in October 2006, he found out just how important firsthand, when a grenade was thrown into the vehicle he was driving.

Lee, now the 18th Medical Deployment Support Command's medical operations noncommissioned officer, was the guest speaker at Tripler's Armed Services Blood Program's 8th Annual Donor Appreciation Luncheon, held Feb. 3, at the Tradewinds Enlisted Club on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

"It was a humbling experience to receive blood. One minute you're okay and the next minute, you're fighting for your life," Lee explained. "Everyone in this room who runs this program, you're saving lives every day. It's a domino effect."

Lee returned to Iraq a year later. Less than a week after arriving in theater, a mortar round landed inside his forward operating base. Four people were injured.

"I was one of the medics on scene, patching people up," he recalled. "Imagine if I wasn't there, if I didn't make it. I just happened to be around the corner when that mortar round landed. I was at the right place at the right time. It's a domino effect."

In his current job, Lee travels to countries around the Pacific working with first responders. He stresses the importance of medicine and sustainable blood programs.

"I wouldn't be able to do that if someone didn't donate and that blood wasn't there for me," Lee said.

Each year, the Blood Donor Center hosts an appreciation luncheon to recognize the countless people who have donated blood and time recruiting donors and hosting blood drives within their units.

Awards were given for the Top Whole Blood Donor, Top Platelet Donor, Top Blood Drive Coordinators, Community Support, Top Unit, TAMC Blood Battle, Phlebotomist of the Year and Red Cross Volunteer.

Blood and blood products are used for patients of all ages for many reasons. From cancer patients or surgical patients, to those with battlefield injuries--military members depend on blood donors every day. By giving blood to the ASBP, you ensure life-saving blood products are available whenever and wherever service members and their families are in need.

"Tripler's Blood Donor Center program collects about 7,000 to 7,500 units of blood each year," explained Michelle Lele, blood donor recruiter and coordinator, Tripler Blood Donor Center. "Blood collected stays here at Tripler Army Medical Center as well as weekly shipments to Afghanistan."

Prior to the founding of the ASBP, the military did not have a unified transfusion program. Blood and blood products were collected from military personnel exclusively during wartime. In peacetime and when wartime needs cannot be met, blood has to be purchased from civilian agencies.

Donors from all services, government employees, retirees, military family members, and civilians can donate to the ASBP. Though travel to certain areas, some medications, and medical conditions may temporarily, indefinitely, or permanently restrict donation, most healthy adults are eligible to give blood.

"Blood is like a parachute," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. David Koch, Joint Blood Program officer, U.S. Pacific Command, and the ceremony's opening speaker. "You can't jump without it. Whether you donate blood or your time to organize blood drives, we thank you and we applaud your efforts. Without you, we couldn't do all the great things to assist the doctors with savings lives."


Did you know …
-You can save up to three lives with a single whole blood donation.
-A single trauma victim may require 40 or more units of blood.
-A premature baby's life can be sustained for two weeks by a single pint of blood.
-Red blood cells have a shelf-life of just 35-42 days.
-Donors can give blood every 57 days and platelets up to 24 times per year.
-Leukemia patients need up to eight units of platelets daily during treatment.
-Platelets have a shelf-life of only five days.
-Most medications do not prevent blood donation.

Learn more about donating blood or find an upcoming blood drive near you by visiting www.militaryblood.dod.mil or www.facebook.com/militaryblood.