This article was originally published in the Cleveland Daily Banner.

As Chattanooga and her Southeast Tennessee neighbors continue their recovery from last week’s senseless — and still inexplicable — shooting deaths of five military servicemen, it is prudent to remember life must go on because our region’s needs demand it.

One such need lies with an organization whose life-giving resources played an integral role in gallant attempts to save the lives of those four U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy logistics specialist.

We refer to Blood Assurance, a much-respected organization that sent 680 units of blood to Erlanger hospital within the first 24 hours after the soldiers’ shooting and transfer to the Chattanooga emergency health facility. Shockingly, this is six times the amount of donations typically needed at the hospital on any given day.

Under normal circumstances, Blood Assurance would distribute 130 units of red cells, plasma and platelets to Erlanger on a single day.

But last Thursday was hardly typical of an average day in Chattanooga, nor any of its immediate neighbors in Tennessee, Georgia or Alabama — and this includes our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown whose giving nature for years has served as a reliable partner in providing donations to Blood Assurance.

On both Thursday and Friday, area residents flooded the Blood Assurance donation center at the Village Green, and a similar rush of volunteers was seen on the nonprofit’s main center in Chattanooga, as well as other locations in cities not too distant from the Hamilton County metropolis.

Truly, it was a heartwarming sight to see so many Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia families and individuals rolling up their sleeves in such a massive lifesaving response. Yet, their immediate cause was for the fallen soldiers.

Now, another need exists; that is, the full replenishment of Blood Assurance’s supplies of blood.

Rick Youngblood, president and CEO of Blood Assurance, pointed to how such tragedies can deplete blood supplies so quickly. Ironically, these are supplies that have taken weeks to build.

In a news article published on the front page of Friday’s edition, Youngblood told the Cleveland Daily Banner, “We are deeply grateful to the community for its overwhelming support. However, when tragedy strikes and there is an urgent need for blood, the universal blood supply suffers.”

He added, and this is the caution that caught our eye, “It can take several weeks to replenish the blood supply that is needed daily from the local hospitals serviced by Blood Assurance.”

Obviously, Erlanger is one of those hospitals. Another, much closer to home, is Cleveland’s own SkyRidge Medical Center.

Blood Assurance is an organization that is no stranger to the impact of tragedy on area families. The nonprofit has served this area, and the Cleveland and Bradley County community, for years … just as it continues to do now.

And now, more than ever, Blood Assurance needs the help of the communities it works to support on a daily basis.

That help comes in this form: blood donors, especially now that its supplies have become so seriously diminished.

In the May 20 edition, our newspaper published an editorial pointing out that one blood donation can save as many as three lives.

It was true then.

It is no less true now.

We pointed to the heroism of our community’s emergency responders — law enforcement, firefighters and medical technicians, among others. Using them as our standard of excellence, we suggested “… Blood Assurance is one of those unique organizations that gives the everyday man or woman the chance to be just as heroic, by giving them the opportunity to save lives.”

Blood donors also save lives.

And only they can assure that humanitarian organizations like Blood Assurance can sustain life by giving the donations that provide life.

We urge all in Cleveland and Bradley County who are eligible to give blood to do so. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and there’s very little pain — save the prick of a finger to test for iron levels and the brief hint of pressure felt as a tiny needle finds a vein inside the elbow of blood donors.

In Cleveland, Blood Assurance’s new location is found inside the Village Green shopping center next to Firehouse Subs. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Cleveland donation center’s phone number is 423-476-3201.

Appointments are not required, but they are encouraged by calling or by visiting the website

Questions may also be directed to Charlie Callari, vice president of Marketing for Blood Assurance at 423-618-8635.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the families affected by [last] Thursday’s tragic incident,” Youngblood said.

His is a voice of compassion.

His words are those of a Samaritan.

And his heart beats with the same warm rhythm as any humanitarian of purpose and any civic servant of cause.

Blood Assurance has been, and is always, there for this community, and for communities throughout much of Tennessee and North Georgia.

Its outreach has saved lives.

Its reach within has touched us all, whether directly or indirectly.

Last Thursday, Blood Assurance gave its all.

Last Thursday, Blood Assurance donors answered the call.

Last Thursday, our people learned the true meaning of giving.

And now we ask this: For those who didn’t, or couldn’t, give last week … will you step up now to help replenish the Blood Assurance supplies?

It is a mission of mercy.

It is a mission of unbridled passion.

It is a mission of serving as our brother’s keeper.

Most of all, it is a mission of love — the kind that comes without expectation and the depth of which knows no limit.

Southeast Tennessee, and the neighbors within its immediate surround, will recover from this heartbreak of death.

And death’s pain will be healed by the blessed gift of life.