The Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Blood Donor Center (NMCCL BDC), North Carolina holds roughly 150 blood drives per year in support of active duty, family members and retirees at home and overseas. Ensuring steady supply of blood and blood products, if and when needed, is a vital component to meeting the mission of the NMCCL BDC and to helping the greater mission of the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP). A mission nearly impossible without the help and support of leaders like Marine Lt. Gen. Robert F. Hedelund, Commanding General, II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), aboard Camp Lejeune.

The size of a blood drive and the amount of units a site produces varies. Since its opening in 2003, the NMCCL BDC had not collected over 100 units of blood in one five-hour blood drive. Thanks to Hedelund and his leadership, that statistic is no more. On February 21, II MEF held a blood drive at their headquarters building and, from the start, the mobile donor center team knew it was going to be a record breaking day. There were over 130 people in line before the drive even started and, by the end of the day, over 115 units of blood were collected.

The success of the II MEF blood drive is credited to Hedelund and his staff for their unwavering support and belief in the ASBP.

“The ASBP is vital to our military’s readiness, not just for our military members, but for their families as well. Working with the ASBP has been very rewarding and we, at II MEF, are humbled to do our small part to support ASBP’s significant efforts,” said Hedelund. “The ASBP is responsive and a great partner with whom to work. We have hosted three blood drives at II MEF, and we are looking forward to our fourth, scheduled in May.”

Not only does Hedelund support the ASBP heavily by setting up blood drives every 57 days, but he is also a blood donor at every one of his drives.

“Giving blood is a small way to give of yourself to someone else during a critical time for them, whether it be forward deployed or at home where seconds make a difference. I have not always been able to give blood during my career because, as an aviator, it can be challenging to schedule donation around flight restrictions,” said Hedelund. “I am now in a position where I can give blood without those challenges so I am motivated to give as much as I am able. At II MEF, (the ideal) ‘What Matters to Us’ is our guiding principle and our fellow service members, civilians and their families form the foundation of [that principle], our readiness. Giving blood adds a sustaining force to that community and ultimately enhances the operational excellence of our entire Department of Defense community.”

His motivation for donating also stems from his experience in seeing the need for blood first hand.

“Unfortunately, as a CH46 pilot over many, many years, I’ve had the opportunity to transport, on CASEVAC (Casualty Evacuation) missions, personnel that were wounded from combat injuries and those injured in training accidents,” Hedelund said. “More than a few were either receiving blood while en route to a higher level of medical care or would need the blood on arrival. So, I’ve seen first-hand, the life sustaining importance of donated blood and blood products; it’s absolutely crucial at those time-critical moments.”

Leaders like Hedelund are what keep the ASBP thriving but his support does not stop there. He also encourages others to roll up their sleeves in support of the ASBP and its mission. He expressed the important fact that the ASBP can only conduct blood drives on military installations, federal property and all blood collected goes to support our forward deployed and their families at home.

“As Marines, it is our responsibility to each other to sustain one another. Giving blood is a way to provide that sustaining lifeline,” said Hedelund. “The precious gift of your blood can save the lives of as many as three people in our military community.”

The Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Blood Donor Center would not be able to fulfill its weekly mission without the help, dedication and support of leaders like Lt. Gen. Hedelund. Due to his efforts, the donor center is able stand ready so that all active duty, family members and retirees have access to these lifesaving products if and when they should need them.

Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program has served as the sole provider of blood for the United States military. As a joint operation, 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, visit www.militaryblood.dod.mil. People are also encouraged to follow @militaryblood on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Pinterest and @usmilitaryblood on Instagram.