Who first served his country, then retired, only to continue to serve the nation through intense community activities? Justin Blum, that's who. Blum is a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the United States Army. So what is his tie-in with the American Red Cross (ARC)? Well, Blum, who is a Senior Army Instructor for the students in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) at Marlboro County High School, leads his JROTC cadets as they conduct blood drives for the ARC.
Blum said that the blood drives for the Red Cross are viewed as service learning projects for the JROTC cadets. According to him, "since 2000, we have been conducting three to four blood drives for the ARC. Blum also proudly declared that the mission of the Army JROTC is to 'Motivate Students to be Better Citizens.'" During times of natural catastrophes, man-made disasters, and/or war, "a good citizen" should "answer the call of duty as often as he or she can by donating a unit of blood," Blum elaborated.
In the past 10-plus years, Blum estimated that the JROTC-orchestrated blood drives have collected "approximately 3,000 units of blood" for the Red Cross. It is commonly understood that a blood donor cannot give blood if he or she has a sexually transmitted disease. So the number one priority is to ensure that students practice abstinence first. Blum also pointed out that the JROTC blood drives are often combined with the pregnancy prevention program. Furthermore, Blum and the JROTC cadets have conducted school-wide/county drives for food and money for hurricanes and earthquake relief.
Blum leads his cadets by example. He exemplifies good citizenship and leadership by unselfishly performing service to the city, state, or country in whatever shape or form his volunteerism is needed. One of his more memorable experiences while volunteering was assisting the 1996 hurricane victims in Marlboro County. Traveling through the back roads, he helped move trees and evacuate people stranded in their homes without food, warmth, or power due to the storm. This direct contact and assistance he provided to the disaster victims was an unforgettable experience for him. Blum exclaimed, "This experience made me feel like I was on active duty with the United States Army once again!"
Appreciated by both his work colleagues (1SG William Swift and SFC James Clark) and cadets, Blum has received the National Army Senior Instructor Award of the year twice! He received the award in 2003, and again in 2011. Under Blum's guidance, the Marlboro County High School Army JROTC earned the State Farm Service Learning Award in 2009.
Blum is 100 percent disabled due to service-connected problems which results in him having an ostomy bag. He also struggles with ulcerative colitis. But even the initial stages of colon cancer, doesn't slow him down. So it comes as no surprise that in 2011, Blum was the recipient of the Great Comebacks Program’s Tony Snow Award for Public Service. Blum avidly continues to perform community service that helps others by guiding his JROTC cadets and assisting anyone in whatever manner is possible. According to him, "Volunteering with the ARC is a perfect way of performing that selfless service on the behalf of others."