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May 28, 2012 / Jess

Memorial Day

To the readers of this blog: These words are just my own self-published musings. My soldier, however, had his viewpoint on Memorial Day published nationally today. Read it here. Be moved, and be jealous that I get to date him. He’s kind of a big deal.

Dear Army,

Today is my first Memorial Day as an Army Girlfriend. It’s markedly different from the 26 that came before it. I still went to a barbecue and hung out with friends. I still ate a hamburger and fruit salad and cookies I didn’t really want simply because they were there, and I have limited will power when it comes to portion control.

But I was distraught.

The phrase “Happy Memorial Day” irked me greatly. For those who have someone who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country, this day will never be happy. I felt a deep desire to honor those men and women, and had given it a lot of thought. I decide an appropriate gesture would be donating blood. Donating blood in honor of those who lost blood felt symbolic and practically speaking, it could help a soldier in need. It would also be a challenge, and I wanted my contribution to be difficult.

I am terrible with needles. If blood needs to be drawn, the technician often goes into both arms, wiggling the needle around before deciding a vein can’t be found. The sensation of that needle wiggling under my skin makes me sweat, and panic. Often times, blood is finally drawn through my hands – a more painful spot (but not one from which they’ll let you donate a pint of blood). When I’m done, sometimes I faint. I’m pretty much a mess.

But so what. This needed to be a sacrifice.

I wanted to be strong and go alone, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that pride was not the answer. My friend Anna went with me, and felt compelled to give blood herself. At first this made me anxious, I wanted her to sit with me directly – but how selfish was that?

I made it through the pre-screenings with no problems, unless you count intense anxiety as a problem. I was on the bed with the tourniquet, panicky but mostly fine. She couldn’t find a vein. She called over a coworker. She couldn’t find a vein. They tried the other arm. Still no vein. They called over a third coworker, the one with more than half a decade of experience. She put on two tourniquets. As they critiqued my veins for the next five minutes, my hand turned purple and throbbed.

They asked me if I had drunk the required amount of water ahead of time. I had. I drank double, actually. I like to be prepared.

And then, just like that, they turned me away.

“In my 6 years of experience, I’ve never turned down someone once they made it to the bed.”

Was that supposed to be comforting?

All I could do was watch Anna donate blood instead. I thanked God for my ability to put my pride aside, and my selfishness. At least someone was donating.

And I fumed at my helplessness. This was so like this experience for me – so much of an Army Girlfriend life is just watching. Of seeing people in pain and being able to do nothing. Of trying so hard and getting nowhere.

I suppose I got an A+ for effort. But nobody will be getting my A positive blood.

And nobody will be getting their loved ones back.

Army, are you worth the ultimate sacrifice? I wish I knew.

(Not) love,



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