Lending a helping hand

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nick Wilson
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
With a mission to provide life-saving blood to patients in times of crisis and disasters, the American Red Cross is the largest supplier blood in the U.S.

Airmen, civilians and dependents alike contributed to that vital mission by participating in a blood drive sponsored by Red Cross at Whiteman Air Force Base, May 16 to 17.

Many donors chose to give blood with the desire to lend a helping hand. Others donated because they had friends or family members who would have lost their lives if it was not for the generous donations of fellow citizens.

"Without a blood transfusion, my mother would have bled to death when she was pregnant with her second child and I never would have been here," said Airman 1st Class Clinton Cannon, Detachment 303 blood drive volunteer. "She collapsed because she was experiencing severe internal bleeding from a tubular pregnancy."

Cannon said this event keeps him coming back to either volunteer or donate blood every chance he gets.

"If there is a vehicle accident or a surgery, the blood people donate can be used to help a patient in need," said Betsy Bachofer, American Red Cross donor recruitment representative. "One pint of blood can save up to three lives."

Bachofer said the blood is also used in support of various Armed Forces and humanitarian missions all over the world.

The American Red Cross pioneered blood collections during World War II, when blood was collected in the U.S. and shipped overseas to support contingency operations, she said.

"We're saving lives," said 1st Lt. David Cwiakala, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron chief of operations support and blood drive coordinator. "In the military, it's highly likely that someday you or somebody you know is going to be in a really bad spot on the other side of the world and needs a donated unit of blood to stay alive."

In addition to being responsible for coordinating blood drives, Cwiakala has also been donating blood since he was in college.

"I've donated at every drive that we've had here at Whiteman since I've been coordinating them," Cwiakala said. "I've organized six blood drives since June 2012."

The first day of the blood drive the team of American Red Cross collection technicians exceeded their goal of 60 pints of blood, ending up with a total of 78 pints.

When American Red Cross holds blood drives, they sell the units of blood they receive to local hospitals, and they donate the proceeds to support various armed services programs.

"Each year the American Red Cross provides assistance to more than 2 million service members and many of our nation's 24 million veterans," Bachofer said. "We work under partnership agreements with the Air Force Aid Society, Army Emergency Relief, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance and Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society to provide financial aid to Service members 24/7."

Bachofer said the financial support can be provided for emergency travel funds, burial of loved ones and emergency food and shelter, among other things.

"Through partnerships with the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs, the Red Cross provides transition and reintegration support to wounded warriors, to veterans and to their families," Bachofer said.