As National Blood Donor Month, January is a crucial time for raising awareness for the need to give blood. That makes it a crucial time for The American Legion and its members as well.
Legionnaires everywhere are encouraged to give blood and host blood drives at posts as part of the American Legion Blood Donor Program - an organizational effort that has existed since 1946 to help a life-saving cause that becomes even more important during the harsh winter season. Last year, the Legion's program officially brought in more than 17,500 pints from over 6,700 donors nationwide.
As it does at the start of each year, the American Association of Blood Banks uses January to draw awareness to the need for blood. It's estimated that 39,000 units of red blood cells are used at hospitals and emergency care centers each day. That number grows as the weather gets colder.
Legionnaires who are interested in donating or coordinating donation efforts at posts are encouraged to contact their community blood center, hospital blood bank or local medical doctors. Donors must be 17 years old in most states, though some states will allow 16-year-olds to participate with written permission from a parent. You must also weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health (meaning without infection or fever), not on antibiotics and generally feeling well on the day of donation.
Posts and departments that donate the most blood are honored at the national convention each year. Departments are separated into five categories, according to size, and are recognized in two areas: for post participation and individual Legionnaire participation. Post participation awards are given to departments with the highest number of participating posts. Individual participation awards are given to departments with the highest percentage of individuals giving blood.
The national commander presents both awards at the national convention. Winning departments receive certificates signed by the national commander and national adjutant.