Be a hero for our Heroes: Make it your mission to donate blood (Commentary)

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • Robins Public Affairs

Time. Giving blood is all about time.

When the Armed Services Blood Program held a blood drive at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, June 4, 2021, I donated blood for only the second time in my life. The first instance, being a decade earlier when I lived in South Carolina, was for a local hospital.

When I think about the large gap between those donations, it caused some introspection. Why did it take me so long to donate again? The answer didn’t take long to enter my mind. The quick simple answer was time. Donating wasn’t something I prioritized. It was one of those things I kept saying I would get to, and here I am 10 years later. That bite of reality prompted me to share my donation day story and perhaps enlighten readers about the ASBP.

Donation day

As I laid back in the recliner with the donation process underway, I scanned the room just looking and listening.

I recall hearing a man tell his technician that this stop was the last thing he needed to do before heading home after his shift. Then there was a woman who said she gives blood because her dad was a prolific donor, and that was her way of honoring him.

The overall process from registration to refreshments took about an hour. However, the donation itself only took around ten minutes.

Who benefits

According to the ASBP website, the program serves as the official provider of blood products to U.S. service members, veterans and their families.  

More than 1.5 million units of blood have been provided to treat battlefield illnesses and injuries since the inception of the program.

In 1952 President Harry Truman created the ASBP, and it became a fully operational blood program in 1962.

Following the Korean War in the early 1950s, the ASBP assumed collecting, processing, and transporting blood products for the military community from the American Red Cross.

There are 20 ASBP blood donor centers in the U.S. and around the globe. Each military branch operates multiple blood donor centers and many of the centers travel long distances to conduct drives.  

The Army Blood Donor Center at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, which is two and half hours away, oversees the blood collection process at Robins.

By the numbers

A person can donate whole blood every 56 days. If I had followed that schedule, for just a decade, my contribution would be at least 65 units of blood.

Medical officials say one unit can save up to three lives, which means I potentially could have helped 195 service members and their dependents.

The ASBP website states less than 38% of the U.S. population is eligible to give blood, and yet, only 3% gives on a regular basis.

Given those statistics, it is easy to understand why the ASBP needs a constant flow of donations to support the warfighter.

In some traumatic cases, it could take between 30 to 100 units of blood to save a service member.

Giving blood is a critical mission.

For many years, I was told I couldn’t give blood because of the medication I take for Hashimoto’s Disease. That is no longer the case. And unfortunately, some people may not be able to donate because of medical conditions. If so, encourage others to give.

I have created a personal goal for myself, it’s called Challenge 56. Every 56 days I am going to make the sacrifice and take the time to donate.

Time is precious. All the money in the world can’t buy more of it.

However, the free-flowing blood through my veins could give someone else something priceless, such as a chance to get married, see a child graduate, the opportunity to travel to a long-dreamed destination, or just more sunrises.

Perhaps nearing 50 years of age has me thinking about my own mortality and what I can do to contribute something positive in this world where negativity runs rampant. And yes, even this topic may draw someone’s ire. Well then, this is isn’t for you.

This is for all that serve, like the Airmen with the 78th Security Forces Squadron who greet me each morning at the gate. 

I purposefully make eye contact with them and say, “thank you”.

As a mother, I respectfully see them as “kids,” because they are around the same age of my son currently stationed abroad.

And while their duties are far from child’s play, they are adult children with parents who are concerned about their well-being.

Considering all that I have shared, maybe you too will become a regular blood donor.

Instead of just saying “thank you for your service,” pay it forward to those who selflessly serve our country.

Your selfless act may just be the help needed to give a service member more time.

To find a blood drive near you go to

Editor’s note: All of the facts and figures presented are from the Armed Forces Blood Program website at