Sgt. 1st Class Jaime Espinoza, a frequent donor with the Armed Services Blood Program, donates blood at a USO Warrior & Family Center blood drive, June 2.

Having all 10 USO-Metro locations shut down for the pandemic has been hard on USO-Metro staff, most especially its 1,300 dedicated volunteers. Despite the circumstances, USO-Metro has found creative ways to support the men and women of the armed forces and their loved ones via virtual programming and Grab N’ Go meals, to name a few.

Undoubtedly, the organization’s most critical initiative has been its collaboration with the Armed Services Blood Program. ASBP is the official military provider of blood products to U.S. armed forces. As a division in the Defense Health Agency’s Combat Support Directorate, ASBP focuses on equipping warfighters with lifesaving blood and blood products that are needed on the battlefield and in military treatment facilities worldwide.

When the pandemic hit, many of the venues scheduled to host ASBP blood drives suddenly closed, including the USO Warrior and Family Center Fort Belvoir.

“I called the USO Warrior and Family Center at Belvoir to confirm we would need to cancel our pre-scheduled blood drive,” wrote Donna Onwona, from ASBP. “To my surprise, they not only allowed us to keep it on the schedule, but offered for us to continue using the USO center for as long as we needed.”

According to Onwona, since 2014, ASBP has collected 1,369 units of blood, which has brought injured warfighters home from the frontlines alive, and saved the lives of patients being cared for at medical treatment facilities in the area.

Onwona wrote that each blood unit has the potential to reach three patients, meaning the blood drives at the USO Warrior and Family Center, over the years, had the potential to reach more than 4,000 patients who needed blood or transfusions.

“Being able to continue to support our Service members through these blood drives has meant a great deal to all of us at USO-Metro,” wrote Heidi Miller, USO Center coordinator. “We are dedicated to supporting the men and women who protect us, so to be able to be a part of ensuring that this life-saving resource is available to them when needed is heartwarming.”

“The USO Warrior and Family Center has been one of our most dependable partners, not only on Fort Belvoir, but throughout the National Capital Region,” wrote Onwona.

Since the early weeks of the lock down, ASBP has collected 131 units of blood from donors at the Warrior Family Center Fort Belvoir, with a potential to reach nearly 400 patients, which is especially critical in these times.

“I have often said that USO-Metro saves lives, particularly as it relates our nation’s wounded, ill and injured to Service members through our resiliency and caregiver programs,” wrote Elaine Rogers, CEO of USO-Metro. “But, to know we are literally helping to save lives of Service members who have fought on battlefields is incredibly meaningful.”

USO-Metro is working with local garrison commanders and airport authorities on implementing safety precautions to begin the gradual, reopening process.