Jim and Linda Parker returned home to McPherson in early October with a sense of accomplishment. Their white minivan with red “donating across America” and “ASBP” logos advertised the cause for which they just completed a national checklist.


Jim and Linda Parker returned home to McPherson in early October with a sense of accomplishment. Their white minivan with red “donating across America” and “ASBP” logos advertised the cause for which they just completed a national checklist.
The Parkers recently completed their goal of donating blood or platelets to all 19 Armed Services Blood Program locations across the nation. Numbers 18 and 19 were in the Washington, D.C., area. They accomplished this task in order to bring attention to the need for these military donations.
“If we can go all the way across the country to donate, then surely people can go just across their town and donate also,” Linda said, who noted local individuals should contact the Wichita Red Cross.
The traveling duo completed this task at the request of the Armed Services Blood Program, which recognized their donation history and asked the couple to help its cause. The program cannot advertise for help outside of its service due to legal reasons, limiting donors to military personnel or their families. This number dwindles even further when those in the service must travel overseas, inhibiting their availability to donate over a year or more.
“Jim and I felt like, if we could go out and help the military raise awareness, then we were actually helping them and letting them know they were not forgotten,” Linda said.

The Journey
The Parkers began the journey in November 2008 and completed the task Oct. 7. Until her recent retirement as a teacher, they traveled during summer and holiday breaks.
“It was great, they treated us like royalty,” Jim said,
Once they got onto the bases, the couple often received facility tours and met various personnel and soldiers. During their most recent trip, they were introduced to three wounded soldiers who served in Afghanistan.
These experiences are particularly special for the Parkers, who have a son who served nine years in the Army. They also both have a brother who served in the armed forces.
“It was almost overwhelming because it reminded me of all the emotions I had with my son going overseas and how grateful I was he came back,” she said. “It was an honor and a very humbling experience to meet with them fresh from the battlefield.”

Encouraging support
Both Jim and Linda strongly encourage veterans and young people to donate blood or platelets.
In response to those who do not wish to donate, Jim is known to present a challenge.
“When it comes to donating blood, everyone should ask themselves two questions,” Jim said. “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?”
The couple is aware they are too old to serve in the armed forces, but know they can support them in other ways.
“We do it because we can and because we're healthy,” Linda said.
    
How it all began
The Armed Services Blood Program, a joint operation among military services aimed to manage blood donations for service members and their families, heard about the Parkers when they visited an army medical center in Hawaii, the last item on a previous checklist. This one was to donate blood or platelets in all 50 states. Since there were no American Red Cross donation locations available, they chose to give to an Army medical center, which marked the beginning of their new and most recent journey.
Their first checklist began in March 2004, when they decided to donate in all 34 American Red Cross regions in the United States in response to a national plea from the American Red Cross.
According to their records and research, they are the first to complete any of these tasks.
“It's one way we can give back,” said Jim, who has been donating blood since Kansas was an American Red Cross state. “It's a very efficient way. It doesn't cost us, and it has a direct benefit.”
One unit of blood can help save up to three lives and one platelet can help save one.
“Where else can we do something that efficient?” he said.
In their lifetime, 73-year-old Jim has donated 36 gallons of blood, and 62-year-old Linda has donated 25 gallons. Both keep a log of their gifts and give as many times as possible. Typically, individuals can make whole blood donations six times a year and platelet donations 24 times a year.

Traveling the country
These nationwide checklists broadened the Parkers' horizons. Their minivan, which they bought in 2004 with intentions to do more donation traveling, has racked up 175,000 miles since it came into their possession.
“The travel is very addicting,” he said. “Getting to go across the nation, seeing things. We had we not done this. It's expanded our lifestyle and the understanding of the nation tremendously. We had no idea it would happen.”
But this amount of traveling comes with a price. The Parkers' gas, lodging and other expenses come from their own pocket. This has been the biggest obstacle in accomplishing their goals.
Still, the couple is happy to do it.
“We have enjoyed it,” she said. “It's been something we've looked forward to planning. The process has made me stand a little prouder as an American.
“We have met a lot of wonderful people,” Linda said.
“And they all like to stick a needle in your arm,” Jim added with a chuckle.

What’s next
After three completed national checklists, it's no surprise the Parkers are on the lookout for another goal to accomplish. Disaster relief or Habitat for Humanity involvement are both possibilities.
“I expect something will come up shortly that we will be a part of,” Linda said. “We will continue to donate regardless.”
A chronicle of Jim and Linda's travels for the Armed Services Blood Program can be viewed at www.militaryblood
.dod.mil and clicking on the blue U.S. icon on titled “The Adventures of Jim and Linda” on the left side.