During the years of the Vietnam conflict, basic trainees at Fort Knox, Ky. - and presumably at other military installations - were asked an important question.
Drill sergeants, with their troops standing in formation in front of them, asked, "Is there anyone here who does not want to give blood for our soldiers in Vietnam?"
Even trainees who harbored unwarranted fears connected with donating blood didn't dare refuse.
It didn't take much thought to realize that the basic training experience of anyone who declined was likely to become significantly more difficult than what it already was destined to be.
So, unless a trainee had a good reason for why he should be excused, such as too short of a time since previously giving blood, all rolled up their sleeves for what, for most of them, would be a first-time experience - an experience that many later regarded as one of the more pleasant aspects of "basic."
Presumably, a question similar to the one asked at "Knox" back then still is being asked at U.S. military bases on behalf of America's remaining troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Back at Fort Knox, when the experience of giving blood was over, most of the new donors wondered why they never had volunteered to give blood when they were civilians.
There's a good reason why it is appropriate to reflect on blood donation at this time.
During the hubbub of the holiday season and during winter's onslaught, blood reserves sometimes become dangerously low, necessitating calls for donors to help end the shortages.
That never should be necessary. Many more people would routinely volunteer, helping to keep blood supplies at safe levels all the time, if unwarranted fears didn't exist about pain and discomfort associated with this gift-giving process.
Most people who have donated blood are adamant that there's no justification for such fears.
If blood donation was the source of intense pain and discomfort, it's unlikely anyone ever would achieve multi-gallon donor status - yet many people have reached that level of achievement during years of giving.
Meanwhile, no one knows whether they too might someday have to be a blood recipient.
Whether it's on behalf of troops in Afghanistan, Iraq or anywhere else around the world, or on behalf of someone nearby who has been injured seriously in a traffic accident or who needs blood in connection with a surgical procedure - or for whatever other reason - this is an important time to "touch base" with the Red Cross to explore donation opportunities.
Beyond individuals doing so, it's also an excellent time for companies, where possible, to consider ways to encourage employees to roll up their sleeves on behalf of saving lives. Likewise, giving blood is a great project for clubs and other organizations.
It shouldn't take a drill sergeant to introduce anyone to the importance of giving blood.
During this holiday season or during the weeks thereafter, more people should make an effort to give this gift that could allow someone to experience many more Christmases.