Leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, congenital neutropenia, sickle cell anemia and thalassemia – recognize these? What they all have in common is they are some of the infections and diseases with which more than 17,000 Americans are diagnosed each year and may need bone marrow transplants.
Marines and Sailors with Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team, Central Command, united to register in the Salute to Life bone marrow donor program.
“Salute to Life is a volunteer Department of Defense bone marrow donation program,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Lisa Dean, a perioperative nurse with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and a program coordinator with Salute to Life. “This program registers military members and their family members between the ages of 18 and 60 for bone marrow donations. It is about saving lives and the goal is to educate all service members about the program and to give them the opportunity to save a life.”
Founded in 1991 through the Naval Medical Research Center, the Salute to Life bone marrow registry program has recruited more than 1 million potential donors and has helped secure more than 8,400 successful donations since. In 2018 alone, more than 240 lives have been saved as a direct result of the program. According to the Salute to Life website, each year as many as 14,000 people need a bone marrow transplant, but approximately 70 percent of patients must find a donor outside of his or her family.
“I chose to donate because like many of us who join the military, we serve,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Kawika Segundo, a naval officer with TF 51/5. “We not only wear our uniforms with pride as a symbol that we sacrifice to protect our nation, but by registering we say to others that we save lives too. That’s what we do and this is just a little gesture of who we are.”
The drive for donors came to the attention of the TF 51/5 and FASTCENT units thanks to Segundo, who registered with the program in 2009 and who has seen firsthand how it can save a life. In 2014, he received a phone call from an unknown phone number. He thought it was a telemarketer and considered ignoring the call but instead answered. As a result, he underwent a relatively simple and painless procedure to donate to a seven-year-old boy who suffered from aplastic anemia. According to Segundo, it was a success and the boy is happy and healthy still today.
“When I was called to donate, the choice was simple,” said Segundo. “This simple procedure will give a child an opportunity to grow up or save a family from losing their mother. It’s like having something worth a dollar to you, but to someone else it is worth millions.”
Between TF 51/5 and FASTCENT, 123 new donors registered with the program over a period of three days.
“When there is an opportunity to help, it should be taken as somewhat of an honor,” said Lance Cpl. Kael Johnson, an automatic rifleman with FASTCENT. “Someone may need my bone marrow donation in the future, so why not help?”
For more information about the Salute to Life program visit https://www.salutetolife.org. For more information about TF 51/5, contact Public Affairs Officer Navy Lt. Cmdr. Sandra Arnold at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marine Corps Capt. Adam Miller at email@example.com.