Rocky Mountain Rangers private Joe LeClerc was among a group of soldiers who dropped by the Canadian Blood Services office on Westwood Drive donate blood.
As a universal donor, his O-positive blood type was just as well-received as it was 20 years ago, which until Saturday was the last time he'd given blood.
Now 46, LeClerc has taken on new responsibilities since he joined the Rangers in September as a reserve soldier. But he was under no obligation to give blood. He volunteered for that duty, knowing it could save someone's life, and out of respect for a fallen Prince George soldier.
Darren Fitzpatrick, a 21-year-old corporal, died on March 20, 2010 in Edmonton, two weeks after he was severely wounded while on a foot patrol near Kandahar City.
"He was injured when he stepped on a mine and they used a lot of blood and blood products to get him to a military hospital in Germany," said LeClerc.
"They brought his family [parents Jim and Colleen] over and they spent time with him. Then they brought him to Edmonton and unfortunately he passed away, but his family was able to spend time with him because of the amount of blood they used over that two-week period. That was one of the thoughts conveyed to me by my sergeant about why it's important to donate blood."
LeClerc said soldiers in battle zones see firsthand how their own blood donations keep people alive.
"I imagine soldiers in Afghanistan are donating blood when they're in that role because there are people being brought in to that area who need blood immediately and it has to be right there," said LeClerc.
The unit of blood LeClerc donated will be separated into the three components -- red blood cells, plasma, platelets/cryoprecipitate. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues, plasma helps the body maintain blood volume and blood pressure and also helps prevent infections and excessive bleeding, while platelets are used for blood coagulation or clotting. Donors are required to wait at least 56 days between donations for the body to replace platelets.
"It goes to a good cause, we know people go to emergency after an automobile accident and they need 10 units of blood and you know it will come right through this office," said LeClerc. "You know it's making a difference. It's a good system that helps many people every day."
LeClerc, an instrument technician for Intercontinental Pulp, comes from family with a military background. Four of his uncles served in the Second World War. As a teenager in his hometown of Flin Flon, Man., he served three years as an army cadet.
"I'm a new soldier since September and I've always had high regard for the Canadian Forces and Canadian soldiers and I'm happy to help out," LeClerc said.
Devon Tibbetts, a 22-year-old Rocky Mountain Ranger private, was taking antibiotics to deal with a nasal infection and will have to wait a couple weeks to donate his first unit of blood. He did get his blood tested Saturday and was wearing a first-time donor sticker on the chest of his army fatiques as LeClerc waited his turn.
"I'm super-nervous about it," said Tibbetts. "I have no problem with needles, I'm just really nervous. If it saves one of my buddies lives, I'm all for it."
Tibbetts has been with the Rangers since the unit was revived a year ago and in May was among the first round of graduated soldiers which included 27 infantrymen, two medical officers and an administrative clerk. The Rangers returned to Prince George in February 2011, 40 years after the company was disbanded. The Canadian Forces reserve infantry regiment is based at the former Meadow elementary school on Dornbierer Ave. Until renovations are complete at their permanent headquarters, the unit will be stationed temporarily at a College Heights location.
"It's an honour wearing the uniform, that's for sure, knowing I'm doing something for the country and I'm ready," said Tibbetts. "I've gained personal skills, fitness and teamwork too. I couldn't run before I joined and now I can run 5K and I'm much tougher mentally now, too. I'm a lot tougher than I thought I was."