By Eve Meinhardt, Womack Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office
Al Whitney donates blood at the Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center Nov. 12 as part of his “Platelets Across America” campaign.
Al Whitney first donated blood in 1965. He’s still at it today. It started out pretty simply. He saw a sign in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, emblazoned with two words — donate blood. So, he did.
As he was walking out, he said he heard a voice telling him that he could do better than that. So, he did. Whitney began running blood drives at a local church. His first drive brought in only three units of blood. He said that rather than discourage him, the number encouraged him.
“I could only go up from there,” he said.
For the next 20 years, Whitney started hosting blood drives every eight weeks. By 1985, he was hosting blood drives every Saturday and once every eight weeks on a Monday night.
By 2000, Whitney decided it was time to retire from hosting blood drives. He continued to donate, though. By this time, he’d long since been donating platelets rather than whole blood.
It wasn’t enough for him. In 2007, that internal voice spoke to him again while he was donating platelets, urging him to do more. So, he did.
Whitney started “Platelets Across America.” An organization designed to help raise awareness of the need for whole blood and platelet donation across the country. Within five years, he reached his goal of donating in all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C. He’s also donated in Australia and Canada. Whitney continues to drive around the U.S. in his recreational vehicle, giving platelets wherever and whenever he can.
On Nov. 16, he stopped at the Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center to donate platelets and share some of the knowledge he’s gleaned over the years as both a donor and a blood drive facilitator.
He said that most important thing anyone can do to encourage others to donate is to ask.
“Why don’t more people donate? Because we don’t ask,” said Whitney. “I ask everyone. It’s fun to ask. I’ve never encountered anyone who was hostile and most people just want to know more.”
Whitney, who served in the Navy for four years, said that he tries to incorporate visits to military installations into his trips as much as possible.
“I always take advantage of the opportunity to thank our service members for what they do,” he said. “Our military really isn’t appreciated enough.”
He said that an easy way to support the troops is by giving blood through the Armed Services Blood Program. The ASBP is the official blood collection, manufacturing and transfusion program for the U.S. military. The ASBP represents the Army, Navy and the Air Force and is charged with the collection, processing, storage and distribution of blood and blood products to ill or injured service members, veterans and their families worldwide.
Most healthy individuals are eligible to donate to the ASBP. In general, the person must weigh a minimum of 110 pounds, be at least 17 years of age, have been feeling well for the last three days, be well hydrated and have eaten something prior to donating.
There are some travel and medical restrictions, which can be found on www.militaryblood.dod.mil. Restrictions and requirements do change, so if you were ineligible to donate in the past, you may be able to donate now. If you have any specific questions, you can call the Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center at 910-396-9925.
The Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center is open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Platelet donation is done by appointment only. Whole blood donation can be accommodated on the walk-in basis.
Soldiers receive a certificate of achievement worth five promotion points for platelet donation.
Whitney has donated five gallons of whole blood along with 760 platelet donations and counting. The only way to catch him is to stop by the Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center and offer up your arm for a small portion of your day. In return for helping save a life, they’ll give you cookies and juice.
About the Armed Services Blood Program
Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program has served as the sole provider of blood for the United States military. As a tri-service organization, the ASBP collects, processes, stores and distributes blood and blood products to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and their families worldwide. As one of four national blood collection organizations trusted to ensure the nation has a safe, potent blood supply, the ASBP works closely with our civilian counterparts by sharing donors on military installations where there are no military blood collection centers and by sharing blood products in times of need to maximize availability of this national treasure. To find out more about the ASBP or to schedule an appointment to donate, please visit www.militaryblood.dod.mil. To interact directly with ASBP staff members, see more photos or get the latest news, follow @militaryblood on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest. Find the drop. Donate.