Futenma troops step up to back blood drives
August 30, 2005
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, Okinawa — Ask and ye shall receive.
It’s a motto Navy Lt. Dennis Wheeler, a chaplain here, lives by.
Wheeler routinely organizes blood drives on the air station and always has free food, prizes, and most recently, time off work for those who donate.
“There’s a scripture that says you don’t receive unless you ask,” he said. “I ask.”
The most recent drive was Thursday and Friday. All servicemembers from Marine Aircraft Group 36, Marine Air Control Group 18 and Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron who donated blood received a 72-hour pass.
Wheeler said the Army and Air Force Exchange’s New Car Sales supplied food while AAFES, Marine Corps Community Services and Navy Federal Credit Union donated gift certificates and other prizes.
“It’s not just a chapel thing but a Marine Corps Air Station Futenma community thing,” Wheeler said. “The drives belong to all of them.”
He added that he enjoys being the middleman, linking the Armed Forces Blood Bank Center on Camp Lester to donors. He also said commanding officers of the various units support giving time off to their troops.
During the last day of the recent drive, C. Tracy Parmer, donor recruiter, said support shown from all at the air station has been outstanding.
Commanding officers “stepping up and saying everyone who gives gets a 72, that’s a major step,” Parmer said. “They are willing to support us and reward their people for their efforts in this lifesaving event.”
Parmer said drives that Wheeler coordinated have collected almost 1,000 units of blood. On Thursday the center netted 166 units and another 50 by noon on Friday.
Parmer said the center needs about 400 units a month to meet its demand throughout the Pacific. Some of the blood collected Thursday was used the same day as a patient was evacuated off the island.
One donor at Friday’s event knows firsthand the importance of blood donation. Sgt. Robert Gosse, who works in aircraft recovery, said his life was saved after he received a transfusion several years ago at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
While stationed at nearby Cherry Point, N.C., Gosse had a tonsillectomy. About a week after the procedure he began spitting up blood. A fellow Marine was there and help was called.
With no helicopter available for transport to Camp Lejeune, Gosse was taken by ambulance and given several units of blood during the trip. The next day, he said, he awoke in intensive care and was told the cauterization done to close blood vessels after his tonsils were removed had opened up. He’d lost one-third of his body’s blood.
The blood he was given during the ambulance trip “saved me, so every time there’s a drive, I try to go and give blood,” he said.
While the offer of time off may have been enticing for some last week, the Marine sergeant said he gave because he knows it makes a difference.
“It gave me the gift of life,” he said.