MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- More oft than not, Marines will jump at a chance to help others in need. Such was the case with Lance Cpl. Gilbert Cabrera, a weather observer with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s intelligence section.
Cabrera, a native of Southgate, Calif., traveled to Falls Church, Va. from 16 to 20 Sept. to donate bone marrow to an anonymous recipient through the Department of Defense’s C.W. Bill Young Marrow Donor Program. He endured a week of hormone shots that increased the number of stem cells in his blood. This increase allows medical personnel to extract the cells from the blood instead of extracting directly from the bone marrow, which can be much more painful. After the donation, he experienced soreness, dizziness and nausea.
Through the program, service members who donate blood (generally during recruit training or Marine Combat Training) give consent to further test samples for tissue type and possible future donation compatibility. The information is entered into a database and when the need for a donor arises, the data is screened for a potential donor. The donor is then contacted and made aware of the recipient’s situation while keeping anonymity of the individual. Thus, without any knowledge of the recipient’s background or medical condition, Cabrera, in true Marine fashion, stepped up to the plate.
“It’s the thought of helping someone in need,” explained Cabrera. “I would hope that if I were in the same situation that someone would be as kind to help me.”
“I think, especially during a time of war, that if he is willing to help another person that it speaks volumes for his character,” said Sgt. Brock W. Hemminger, weather forecaster for the 13th MEU. “He is truly faithful and that is why I requested him for the 13th MEU.”
Cabrera took the chance that his new supervisors would afford him the opportunity and the time off as he checked into his new unit. The Fighting 13th MEU is currently rebuilding its ranks in preparation for an upcoming deployment. The chance of Cabrera losing his place in the elite unit was great as he faced a sensitive medical procedure that could potentially put him on limited duty for an extended period of time.
“My biggest fear was losing my spot on the MEU,” said Cabrera. “But you just can’t say no when asked to do something like (this).”
But fear is not a hallmark of any Marine and Cabrera stands by his decision of going through the procedure.
“If given the opportunity to help anybody, and possibly save someone’s life… I would recommend it to anybody. It’s such a small piece of me, but it’s going to be a huge part in somebody’s life.”
For more information about the C. W. Bill Young/DoD Marrow Donor Program, visit the organization’s website at www.dodmarrow.org. For more information on the warriors of the Fighting 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, visit the unit’s website at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.