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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Americans donate blood to Cambodia

Cpl. Asmond L. Coker, radio operator, gives blood to Cambodia's national supply during a drive at an auditorium Dec. 16. More than one hundred service members from USS New Orleans, USS Pearl Harbor, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron 5 donated. The Camp Pendleton-, Calif., based Marine unit embarked three U.S. Navy ships in San Diego Nov. 14 and arrived in southeastern Asia Dec. 11 as part of a regularly scheduled deployment.


REAM NAVAL BASE, Cambodia - U.S. Marines and sailors and members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces queued up to give blood to Cambodia's national supply during a drive at an auditorium on Ream Naval Base Dec. 16.

U.S. service members from USS New Orleans, USS Pearl Harbor, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron 5 donated 107 units, while Cambodians from the Royal Khmer Navy donated 113 units.

Hok Kim Cheng, the Ministry of Health's National Blood Transfusion Center director in Phnom Penh, said Cambodia needs blood - around 3,000 units per month, with two-thirds required in the capital alone.

Approximately 35 percent of the national supply comes from voluntary donations, while the rest comes from families; however, a fifty-fifty source is ideal, said Cheng.

"That is why we organize mobile blood drives," said Cheng, adding that the Ministry of Health solicits donors from the country's own infrastructure - the military for example.

"Today is very helpful," said Cheng. He said the collaboration between Cambodia and the U.S., and the health ministry's relationship with the American embassy and U.S. Pacific Command, was "good for our nation."

Ten-time blood donor Staff Sgt. Toby Salas, 28, who serves as an administrative chief for unit Marines aboard New Orleans, said, "It was a different experience from giving blood in the past."

Salas, who carries an American Red Cross donor card in his wallet, said, "The feeling of giving this time was special - being in a different country, around a different culture. I felt good about it."

The Cambodian and American donors alike received a 20-page booklet, slightly larger than a business card and stamped by the Ministry of Health, with the first blocks filled out to mark the donation.

"It's a good souvenir," said Salas, who hails from Tuscaloosa, Ala. "I can't read it; it's in a foreign language, but it's a reminder of my time in Cambodia. It's a keepsake that I can show the kids and wife. It'll show them there are other cultures outside our own, outside America."

The Camp Pendleton-, Calif., based Marine unit embarked three U.S. Navy ships in San Diego Nov. 14 and arrived in southeastern Asia Dec. 11 as part of a regularly scheduled deployment.

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