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Man's service helps heal his battle scars
Local mans WWII experience helps inspire unique blood donations today
Kennedy Smartt, 84, is a regular at the LifeSouth blood donation center.
LifeSouth Community Blood Centers
Donations accepted:
9 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 1-5 p.m. Sundays
Address: 1200 McEver Road Extension, Gainesville
Contact: 770-538-0500

American Red Cross
Donations accepted: Noon-7 p.m. Mondays-Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays
Address: Chapter House, 311 Jesse   Parkway, Gainesville
Contact: 770-532-8453

A Chesnut Mountain resident really takes it to heart when it comes to giving back to the community.

A battlefield injury during World War II later inspired Kennedy Smartt, 84, to give blood regularly. Smartt was given a transfusion that saved his life after he was wounded in Germany in 1945.

“I was sent on a patrol to find out if the Germans were still in the next town, and when I got there, they were there and opened up fire on us with machine guns,” he said. “I got hit in the leg and was able to get back out of town and take shelter in a creek bed. Probably three hours later, I was rescued by the troops coming up behind me.”

Smartt served in the 42nd infantry for the Army between 1943 and 1946, which travelled to France, Germany and Austria. He was a telephone wireman, and it was his responsibility to string phone wire between regiments and battalion headquarters, often through enemy territory. He was on this type of mission when he got shot.

Although it wasn’t until decades later that Smartt started giving blood regularly.

After returning to the States, he gave blood on special occasions when a member of his congregation had surgery and needed his rare O-negative blood type.

In 1996, he said, he was retired and “looking for meaningful things to do” when a LifeSouth representative visited Chestnut Mountain Presbyterian Church and talked about starting a blood drive. That’s when he started giving regularly.

“I said that sounds like a wonderful thing and offered to get a group of people ready,” he said. “We thought we had a good one going and had 19 people donate blood.”

The drive became an annual tradition, and now the church draws 80 to 100 people to give blood. Smartt still plays his part with organizing the drives.

“What I do is get on the telephone and call everyone in the church. I put them all on a schedule and know when they can give blood again,” he said. “We’re doing a drive on Wednesday, and I’ll have five people coming every half hour. Last year, the church gave 564 pints. They’re the most generous donors in the world.”

Smartt said he was enthralled when he learned he could also donate platelets and started donating both blood and platelets every two months.

Platelets help your blood to clot and are helpful during surgeries and for patients with cancer, leukemia and aplastic anemia. It also takes a little longer to donate platelets compared with donating a pint of blood; a special machine draws whole blood and separates the platelets, so a platelet donation gives eight times as many platelets as a blood donation.

LifeSouth workers know Smartt well, and representative Michael Becker said he’s inspired by Smartt’s story.

“He believes so much in donation and really wants to be a messenger to people, especially older people,” Becker said.

With such a rare blood type, Smartt said he feels privileged to donate blood that is universal and can be used by everyone. But he’s especially enthusiastic to donate in Gainesville because it hits close to home.

And, knowing the benefit the blood transfusion did for him decades ago, Smartt said he is proud to continue the tradition.

“Most of the donations go to the Northeast Georgia Medical Center, and most of us go to that hospital. I feel like we’re helping our own people and community,” Smartt said. “In fact, one member of our congregation has received over 100 pints of blood and many infusions of platelets. He’s been kept alive for five years now on donated blood. We’re literally keeping him alive.”

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