It’s that time of year again where commercials and sales flyers are everywhere, each of them promising the perfect gift for friends and loved ones. While it’s sometimes hard to find or decide what gift to give your Family, it’s easy to give the perfect gift to a stranger — the gift of life.

The Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center typically sees a decline in blood donation during the holiday season. While they may not have as many donors coming through the doors, that doesn’t mean that there are fewer individuals requiring the lifesaving products they provide.

“The blood we collect can be shipped anywhere in the world to treat our ill and injured service members, their Families and veterans,” said Capt. Joshua Kuper, chief, Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center. “This mission doesn’t stop during the holiday season; there’s still a need and it’s still our job to fill that need.”

Not only does the blood collected at the Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center help our service members overseas, it also takes care of patients at Womack Army Medical Center and others in need of care at Department of Defense military hospitals. It is also put on standby for use on rapid deployment missions by special operations units, the 28th Combat Support Hospital or the 44th Medical Brigade.

While donors of all blood types are needed and appreciated, there’s almost always an urgent need for donors with type O blood.

“I am O negative and that means I’m a universal donor,” said Sgt. Douglas Anderson, a Fort Bragg Soldier who donated blood Nov. 16. “I can give my blood to anybody, so it’s important that I come in whenever I can to get this done.”

Kuper said that regular donations from individuals like Anderson are important because their blood type is so rare.

“Donors with O negative blood are extremely important,” said Kuper. “While they make up just a small portion of the population, their blood can be transfused to almost anyone. That’s extremely important in an emergency situation when you don’t yet know the blood type of the injured person.”

Donors with O positive blood are also extremely important because they make up the largest portion of the blood type population, creating a larger need.

While civilians can come on to Fort Bragg to donate blood at the Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center or a military blood drive, blood cannot be donated directly to the military through a civilian organization. The Armed Services Blood Program is the sole provider of blood and blood products to the U.S. military. Anyone receiving blood or blood products in a combat area receives them through the ASBP.

Donating blood only takes about an hour of your time and one unit of blood could potentially save three lives. Not to mention, you get free cookies and juice along with the chance to put your feet up and take a break from the stress of the holiday season.

If you’re unsure if you’re eligible to donate, the Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center can prescreen you over the phone, just call 396-9925.

To donate, you can find a blood drive and schedule an appointment online at www.militaryblood.dod.mil/fortbragg or walk in at the donor center anytime, Monday through Thursday, between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Blood donor basic eligibility

You are at least 17 years old, feel well and have a photo ID.

You weigh at least 110 pounds.

You had no body piercings in the last 12 months.

You have not donated blood in the last eight weeks for a single unit or 16 weeks if double collection.

You are not pregnant or have not been pregnant in the last six weeks.

You have not had any dental work/surgery in the last 72 hours.

You have not had a cold or the flu in the last 72 hours.

You are not scheduled to jump in the next 72 hours.

You know when or where you have traveled outside the U.S. or Canada.

You know what shots or have your shot record for any shots/vaccinations received within the last 8 weeks.

You know when and where you received your last tattoo.