Today, the POW*MIA Awareness Association held its annual Bikers for Blood Community Blood Drive. The annual blood drive helps the community in more than one way, including selling wreaths to place of the gravesites of local veterans.
"We're here today to collect blood donations because it's the right thing to do and it saves lives," explains POW*MIA Awareness Association finance team leader Nicki Chopski. Collecting blood donations is just part of the reason the association took over Mountain View Event Center in Pocatello on Thursday.
The blood drive began 15 years ago. "It started when one of our member's family member's had a health emergency and really needed blood," Chopski explains. "He came to his fellow association members and said, 'Would you be willing to go and donate blood for my family?'" Not only did the association agree, but decided to host its own blood drive with the American Red Cross every year.
The blood drive has grown significantly over the past decade and a half. This year, extra precautions had to be put in due to COVID-19, "but we've had a tremendous response even now," Chopski adds happily.
That tremendous response, in part, is thanks to the community.
While members of the public wait to donate, they also learn about the mission of POW*MIA. "We want our community to remember that they're are literally over 80,000 that are still waiting for an answer," says Chopski. The question that needs answering: What happened to the 80,000 American soldiers who never came back from war?
The blood drive collects much needed blood during the holiday season and helps raise the public's awareness about those who've never returned from foreign conflicts.
It also helps the community in yet another way by raising money to honor local veterans who've passed away. The association helps the Civil Air Patrol which holds a ceremony every December at two cemeteries for Wreaths Across America.
"What we do is place wreaths here locally at both at Mountain View and Rest Lawn Cemetery on veterans' head stones," explains Chopski. "We've never been able to get enough to cover every veteran in the cemetery."
Back at the event center, everyone who donates blood earns an honorary pair of wings. "Blood is a life-saving gift and we feel like those who are willing to do that can wear the title of angel, at least for today," states Chopski.
While the blood drive is only one day, the POW*MIA Awareness Association is still collecting donations for Wreaths Across America. Each wreath costs $15 and will be placed on a local veterans grave. To buy one, visit their website at: http://powmiarodeo.org/donate/.