Marines get swabbed, save lives

11 Sep 2009 | Marine Cpl. Jessica L. Martinez

It is instilled in every Marine from day one as their feet hit those infamous yellow footprints that ‘Marines take care of Marines.’

Sept. 1, students with the School of Infantry – East at Camp Geiger aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River, kept that significant mantra in their minds as they contemplated the simple task of swabbing their mouths in order to save a life.

As students succumbed to the cotton swabs, they registered as marrow donors with the C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program. The process was simple, painless, but the step the Marines took was lifesaving.

“We offer the chance to register with the program weekly, as long as there is a class picking up,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert De Los Santos, coordinator with the program aboard the base. “(SOI – E) is currently one of the top three sites in the world for picking up donors.”

Since the National Marrow Donor Program began in 1986, more than six million Americans, to include more than 400,000 service members, have registered as donors. For SOI – E, in 2007, they had 10,230 donors register, in 2008, there were 12,167 and as of this year, there have been just over 6,500 donors.

The process to become a marrow donor is quite simple and easy. Everything is step by step and takes almost no time at all. Anyone in good health between the age of 18 and 60 is eligible to become a donor.

Marines with the school were given a packet and brief to explain the marrow donor program. From there, they filled out paperwork within the packet, and then they swabbed their mouths with four cotton swabs. After those tasks were finished, the Marines sealed their paperwork and cotton swabs into a large envelope completing the process.

“I’m doing this to help people, it’s what the Marine Corps is all about,” said Pvt. Travis Houser, a Marine Combat Training student and bone marrow donor. “I think about if I were in the same position as someone with leukemia, I’d want someone to donate for me. It makes me feel good to know I’m helping out.”

All the information is then put into a national database allowing medical personnel throughout the U.S. and the world to find a donor who matches someone in need of a transplant.

Each day thousands of people in the U.S. are in need of bone marrow transplants, and each day people die without finding a match and getting that transplant they need.

“This is important,” said De Los Santos. “We are in the life saving business.”

For more information about the donor program visit the Web site at