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Area military answer call as bone marrow donors

By Staff
DONOR CAMPAIGNS Col. Erik Hearon, commander of the 186th Air Refueling Wing of the Mississippi Air National Guard, rests on an aircraft engine while stationed in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. During his deployment last year, Hearon organized a bone marrow donor drive that registered 942 service men and women; he became a donor himself. Since taking command at Key Field last fall, his enthusiasm for the donor program has led to the registration of more than 600 donors with ties to the 186th ARW and Naval Air Station Meridian. Submitted photo
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
May 25, 2004
American Red Cross volunteers were thinking about local guardsmen and military personnel serving overseas Monday as they collected donations to send "care packages" to Iraq.
And, even thousands of miles away, local military personnel were supporting a mission at home. More than 600 have volunteered in a Department of Defense-sponsored bone marrow donor program and stand ready at a moment's notice to fly home to save a life.
The push to register area military personnel as bone marrow donors was initiated by Col. Erik Hearon, commander of the 186th Air Refueling Wing of the Mississippi Air National Guard.
Hearon first registered in the program six years ago and became a donor last year. It was an experience he called "unbelievably special."
Hearon was overseas during Operation Iraqi Freedom when he was called on to be a donor.
Hearon said bone marrow donors and recipients are not allowed to contact each other for one year after the procedure.
A few weeks ago, Hearon contacted his bone marrow recipient, who lives in Colorado. Hearon said she is doing well. She is married and has two children, ages 11 and 9.
A second chance
Another member of the 186th Air Refueling Wing, Tech. Sgt. Steven Stubbs, became a bone marrow donor in June 1999, two years after registering with the program.
Stubbs works with the Regional Counter Drug Training Academy at Naval Air Station Meridian.
The person who received the bone marrow donation did not want to be contacted by the donor, but Stubbs said that hasn't diminished the good feeling he has about helping someone.
A donor is removed from the registry for one year after a bone marrow donation. Stubbs has since been put back on the list of possible donors.
Success lies in numbers
Both Stubbs and Hearon said the physical discomfort of being a bone marrow donor is not as bad as most people think.
Stubbs said: "It wasn't as bad as I expected to be. It was a dull pain, a strain in your back. I sort of walked with a with a limp for a couple of days."
More than 300 members of the 186th and another 300 people serving at Naval Air Station Meridian have registered as bone marrow donors since last fall.
Hearon said the success of the program is based on the number of people who register.
Stubbs said more people on the donor list means more of a chance that someone in need will find a match.
People interested in becoming bone marrow donors who are not affiliated with the Department of Defense may contact the bone marrow program at the University Medical Center in Jackson at (800) 862-3627.

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