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Military Blood Program Seeks Holiday Donors

American Forces Press Service

FALLS CHURCH, Va., Dec. 23, 2003 – The Armed Services Blood Program urges eligible donors to give blood this holiday season to ensure supplies are available to treat service members, retirees and their families.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Pvt. Dylan Tyahla donates his 10th pint of blood at Fort Gordon, Ga. Tyahla will be able to continue as a regular Armed Services Blood Program donor at his next duty assignment in Okinawa. Photo by Paul Clayton

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The blood program organization collects, processes and distributes blood and blood products for the Department of Defense. Blood collected is used in military hospitals and sent to locations worldwide to save the lives of those wounded in action.

During the holidays and well into January, military services' and civilian blood collection centers experience a drop in blood collection, noted spokeswoman Lyn Kukral.

Air Force Lt. Col. Ruth Sylvester, Armed Services Blood Program Office director, agreed. "There are a lot of reasons for the decrease," Sylvester explained.

"It is a busy time of year, many people take vacations and some regular donors may have a cold or the flu, making them temporarily unable to donate," she said. "Unfortunately, the number of people who need blood does not decline. Cancer, surgery and trauma patients at home and those injured abroad cannot wait for blood."

In addition to the donation decline encountered every year at this time, the program is faced with the temporary deferral of some of its most dedicated donors. Not only are troops deployed in the Middle East unable to donate while they are away, but they will also be ineligible to donate for one year after their return due to potential exposure to malaria and a disease spread by sand flies.

"Men and women who may be called into combat are some of our best donors because they know how important it is to make sure blood will be there for them or their buddy if they are injured," Sylvester said. "With a large number of these donors deployed or temporarily deferred, we need some new faces to be there for them."

Active duty service members, government employees, retirees and military family members are all eligible to donate to the program. Blood donor locations can be found on the ASBP Web site.

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