HARLINGEN — Junseo Nam wanted to set an example for his fellow cadets to follow.
So Junseo, 18, stepped forward to be the first Marine Military Academy cadet Wednesday to donate blood.
“It was my honor to donate blood for people who need it,” said Junseo, president of the MMA National Honor Society which held the blood drive.
Cadets in their fatigues waited patiently in the large gymnasium for their turn to donate, while others lay calmly on beds while attendants drew blood. It was the fall blood drive at MMA, and 105 cadets and academy personnel had pledged to do their part, said Rosalinda Garcia, sponsor for the academy’s NHS.
“We have had blood drives for the last 15 years,” Garcia said. “Last year because of COVID we were only able to have one blood drive and it was very successful.”
The drive is crucial, especially in these dark times with COVID, said Sandy Vasquez, donor recruitment manager for Vitalant, which was collecting the blood.
“We are the Valley blood bank,” she said. “We go all around the Valley and do the mobile blood drives.”
Just last week, the nonprofit put out an alert that there is a critical blood shortage throughout the United States, and that shortage is felt in the Valley as well.
“We have to collect at least 2,500 units a day in the Valley,” she said. “We try to keep all the blood here in the Valley.”
Jason Van Horn, 17, lay coolly on a bed, hardly flinching as Phlebotomist Ruben Pena prepared his arm for donation.
“Donating blood is a good thing to do,” he said casually. “It’s something people should do if they’re able to.”
The cadets spoke with earnestness about their wish to do their part.
“I want to help the community as much as possible,” said William Webb, cadet battalion sergeant major.
“I think it’s a good thing for the community and the school,” said William. “It gives us a chance to have an impact on the community and help everyone else in these times.”
The enthusiasm of the cadets for the event was palpable, especially with William Lang, 16.
“Our chapter of NHS does a lot for the Harlingen community, especially the blood drive,” he said. “This is one of our biggest events of the year. We give 100 pints of blood per semester, I think.”