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Volunteer search leads Reservist to impactful opportunity

Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind., is scheduled to host a bone marrow drive to help Airmen join the National Marrow Donor Registry. The drive will be held at the 434th AMS  from 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Dec. 6 and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. in Dock 1 Dec. 7 here. (Department of Defense graphic)

When researching volunteer opportunities, Staff Sgt. Jesus Cervantes-Martinez, 926th Aerospace Medicine Squadron medical readiness, knew he wanted to make a big impact and do something outside the norm. His search for an impactful volunteer opportunity led Cervantes-Martinez to Salute to Life, a Department of Defense bone marrow donor program that gets people on the national bone marrow registry.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --

When researching volunteer opportunities, Staff Sgt. Jesus Cervantes-Martinez, 926th Aerospace Medicine Squadron medical readiness, knew he wanted to make a big impact and do something outside the norm.

“I hate getting voluntold for things,” Cervantes-Martinez said. “When I find something I am passionate about, I get to see results instead of just checking a box.”

His search for an impactful volunteer opportunity led Cervantes-Martinez to Salute to Life, a Department of Defense bone marrow donor program that gets people on the national bone marrow registry.

For Cervantes-Martinez, the program was a deeply personal opportunity to give back.

“I had a cousin who had leukemia and she was very dependent on these procedures,” he said. “There are a lot of people that rely on these types of donations to continue living.”

The process of getting the program back up and running on Nellis Air Force Base was a daunting task, said Cervantes-Martinez, but after much perseverance he was able to get base leadership approval to set up registration events.

However, shortly after getting the appropriate approval, COVID-19 hit, halting any progress he had made.

“The greatest challenge was the pandemic,” he said. “When I learned how COVID was transferred I thought ‘we’re going to need a new procedure for doing this’.”

After much delay, Cervantes-Martinez and the Nellis AFB Salute to Life team has now been given the green light to set up modified events across base.

Adapting to the circumstances, the original plan to set up a single registry line at the Base Exchange had to be scrapped, and they are moving forward by spreading out donation sites across multiple venues on base, including squadrons.

“We now have the procedure set up and the location, we are just missing the manpower to make this happen,” he said.

The team is looking for volunteers across Nellis AFB to help set up and handle the documentation, with the swab itself being handled by medical professionals.

Cervantes-Martinez hopes to see at least 10 percent of each squadron join the registry during the five day event starting Oct. 5.

“At the end of the day it is extremely impactful,” he said. “Just registering for the list opens up the possibility that you can legitimately affect someone’s life.”