The village of Hatteras is a tight-knit Outer Banks community. The type that when bad news hits, it affects everyone.
When one of the members of the community, Coast Guard Auxiliarist, friend and mentor to the crews at local Coast Guard stations, was diagnosed with cancer, it was hard for everyone to digest.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Catherine Gallagher, a boatswain’s mate at Station Hatteras Inlet, was one of the many affected by the news.
“There had to be more I could do,” said Gallagher. “Maybe not an immediate fix, but hope for people who selflessly give support to others and deserve that second chance at life.”
After turning to the internet, searching and doing research, Gallagher said it was as if the computer knew what she was looking for. A site called Salute to Life popped up in one of her social media news feeds.
Since 1991, the Salute to Life program has been working with active duty, reservists, military dependents and Department of Defense civilian employees to build a database of potential donors and enable bone marrow matches. More than 1 million people have joined the National Marrow Donor Registry through this program, taking the first step to saving a life.
Gallagher contacted the Salute to Life staff and was immediately drawn to their mission and their enthusiasm to help her help others. This was what she wanted to do.
She reached out to her shipmates at nearby Station Oregon Inlet, who agreed to host the donor drive.
On June 6, 21 crew members from Station Hatteras Inlet and Oregon Inlet came together to serve others by adding their name to the registry.
“The Coast Guard is filled with members who joined the service to help save lives,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Christopher Wright, officer in charge of Station Hatteras Inlet. “Petty Officer Gallagher took that desire to help one step further.”
Salute to Life has been able to facilitate 8,100 bone marrow and stem cell donations, providing 8,100 individuals diagnosed with diseases like leukemia or lymphoma a second chance at life.
“Bone marrow donation may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about helping others,” said Gallagher. “But it’s definitely a lifesaving option.”
“The Salute to Life program is amazing because it falls right in line with our core values,” said Seaman Michael Karousos, a Station Hatteras Inlet crew member who also registered at the event. “Devotion to duty, serving others. This is just one more way we can help save lives.”
For those not affiliated with the military, Be the Match – a program also operated by the National Marrow Donor Program – manages the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world.
“I am extremely proud of Petty Officer Gallagher for putting on this incredibly important event,” concluded Wright. “I hope that through her efforts, and the many members who volunteered to participate, doctors will be able to find matches for some of the 20,000 people who are diagnosed every year with illnesses that require blood producing stem cells.”