When Capt. Ivan Castro was wounded by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2006, he was transported to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he received blood support for injuries that included a fractured face, broken arm, collapsed lungs and a destroyed right eye. Eventually, Castro lost sight in his left eye, leaving him blind for life.

Castro, who is the only blind officer serving in the United States Army Special Forces, stopped by the Fort Bragg Donor Center recognition program, Jan. 31, at Fort Bragg Club, to thank donors for taking the time to give to those in need.

"Saving lives is one donation at a time," Castro said. "You (donors) have all shown your commitment to the fight by donating to Soldiers who serve downrange."

Supplying blood support to Soldiers and Families downrange is one of the missions of the Armed Services Blood Program, the official United States military blood program. The Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center, as part of ASBP and of Womack Army Medical Center, upholds that mission and also takes care of troops and patients here as well.

Amanda Sitcer, an Army spouse, is one of several donors who attended the ceremony. Sitcer said she donates platelets once a week.

"This is our own little, close-knit Family and community, so we help each other out if we need blood," said Sitcer.

Sgt. Shane Duffy agreed.

Duffy, who is assigned to the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, said he tries to donate platelets about once a week too.

"I feel like it's the right thing to do," said Duffy, who is also an Iraqi combat veteran and a New York City native.

According to web research, abnormal platelet counts can be associated with diseases such as cancer, early and end-stage kidney failure and hemophilia, making donations critically important.

"A platelet expires in five days," said Sgt. Tiffany Anderson, WAMC. A whole blood unit expires 42 days after collection. One blood donation has the potential to save three lives.

William Kelley said he has been donating blood since he served in the Air Force four decades ago. Last year, he donated 15 units, stopping in at the Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center as often as he felt able to, he said.

It's a debt he feels he owes servicemembers.

"I know they need my blood -- they've done more for me than I could ever do for them," said Kelley.

Lt. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, commanding general, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, had a message for donors at the appreciation program.

"Your blood donations remain a vital part of mission readiness. Continue to donate whenever possible and encourage others to do so as well," he said.

It is a sentiment reiterated by Linda Ellerbe, blood donor recruiter.

"We collect from the military for the military," Ellerbe said.

The Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center is located in Building 8-4156, Souter Place. To schedule a blood drive, call 396-9925.

To find out more about the Armed Services Blood Program or to make an appointment, visit www.militaryblood.dod.mil or become an ASBP Facebook fan at www.facebook.com/fortbraggblood.