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FunTimes Magazine

U.S. Veteran Salutes Organ Donors

by Joe Pratt

I joined the military in 1958. My journey as a paratrooper in the United States Army brought me to two tours in Vietnam, fighting amongst some of the toughest and most selfless people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. It was during my 20-year career that I first realized just how precious life can be. Although my retirement from active duty was the end of one tough fight, I later recognized that it was just the beginning of another.

After returning home from the military, I worked at casinos in Atlantic City for about 12 years before moving to work at a new casino in Michigan. It was there that doing simple tasks like walking up and down steps began to get harder and harder. My wife was worried and convinced me to go to the doctor to see what was going on. I was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Being in the military is no walk in the park but taking a walk in the park while you’re suffering from COPD can feel nearly impossible.

Over time, my health deteriorated to the point that I was placed on oxygen 24 hours a day and seven days a week. I was subsequently hospitalized and finally told by the doctors that I needed a lung transplant. Fortunately, after being on the transplant waiting list for just six weeks, I received a call about two donated lungs awaiting me at Temple University Hospital. That lifesaving call came in at 11:00 P.M. in September 2013.

More than 113,000 people nationwide are currently waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.20 people die each day while waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.If just one person reads this and signs up to be an organ donor, they can save up to eight lives and a tissue donor can improve the lives of more than 75 others.

Throughout my entire life, my mantra has always been, “Be a part of the best.” Thanks to my donor’s decision, I can now say I am a part of an organization that’s helping me be the best, Gift of Life Donor Program.

There are so many people who really don’t know anything about organ donation. There’s no better way to explain what being an organ donor can do than to show people the healthy, happy life I’m living today – thanks to my donor. So, I’ve volunteered alongside my daughter with the Gift of Life Donor Program to visit high schools and churches throughout southern New Jersey to share my story and educate students on the critical need for organ and tissue donors.

I am so grateful for all the men and women who fought both past and present for our freedoms. But, I’m also thankful to all the men and women who selflessly signed up to be organ donors---- because one of them gave this Army vet the gift of life.

Joe Pratt is a retired Army major, U.S. Presidential Bronze Star Recipient, and Vietnam Veteran. He serves as a Gift of Life Volunteer Ambassador with the Gift of Life Donor Program.

For more information about organ donation, visit