Former Air Force staff sergeant gives 30th gallon of blood
November 1, 2004
CAMP KINSER, Okinawa — During 3rd Materiel Readiness Battalion’s record-breaking blood drive Thursday, a special guest was on hand who happened to be setting his own record that day.
Dennis Provencher, a retired Air Force staff sergeant, gave his 30th gallon of blood during the drive. Provencher said he has received a certificate from the Guinness World Records saying he was at one time the record holder.
Provencher began donating blood in 1951, when he was going through radio school in Biloxi, Miss. He said anyone who donated got a free steak dinner served by a pretty girl at the USO.
“The steak was good — the girl was OK,” joked Provencher.
After that first donation, Provencher gave as often as he could, but his military career took him places that kept him from giving. But since 1966, he has donated every 57 days — the mandatory wait time between donations.
“I’d give more often if I could,” said Provencher, who told the blood bank personnel to go ahead and take two pints during Thursday’s drive. They declined his offer.
Traveling anywhere that could endanger his blood donation schedule is not an option, he
said. Every now and then, Provencher goes to the Philippines, but said he never ventures outside of Manila so he can continue his schedule. Red Cross blood donation guidelines say anyone traveling to rural Philippines must wait 12 months before donating blood because of malaria risk.
In 1971 Provencher retired from the Air Force and stayed on Okinawa. He has maintained his 57-day schedule, no matter when it is. He said the staff has come in and opened up on the weekend just for him. But he’s not quite sure if he’ll make his next date: Christmas Day.
“I’ve got a buddy over there that might do it for me,” Provencher said, referring to one of the center’s workers.
Donating blood is “just like a regular oil change,” Provencher said. He believes that his passion has kept him healthy. At 71 years of age, Provencher said he has no major health problems.
“I want people to know if an old fart like me can give blood every 57 days over 38 years, they can do it to,” he said.
During Thursday’s drive, one first-time donor said he was amazed at how much Provencher had given.
“Sitting right across from a person that has donated 30 gallons … that’s inspiration,” said Marine Pfc. Billy Sirls. After hearing Provencher’s story, Sirls said he was going to try to donate regularly also.
During Thursday’s drive, Provencher hit a mark he had set for himself more than 20 years ago.
“I’m looking forward to giving at least 15 gallons, maybe even 20, if I continue to produce blood that long,” he said in an October 1981 Stars and Stripes story.
Now that he’s met that goal, he has set a new one.
“I’d like to at least give another 15 gallons,” he said. “I’m going to live to be 102, and I’ll be the oldest guy donating here on Okinawa — if the troops are still here.”
Provencher said he stresses the importance of blood donation to everyone he meets. He said he knows of four or five instances where his blood has saved a life.
“This is a thing that’s easy for me to do and will make an impact somewhere,” he said. “If you can’t do anything else in the world, at least give blood and help somebody.”