Donor remembers sports car days, call of duty

DAYTON — West Milton donor Daniel Hartnagel made his 100th lifetime blood donation Sept. 15 at the Community Blood Center. It was a milestone on his “Donor for Life” journey that brought back some of the best memories of his youth and some of the worst.

Hartnagel grew up in Belmont and began donating as a teenager at Chaminade High School. He can recall when Community Blood Center’s current location on South Main Street was a car dealership. CBC moved down Main Sreet from the Fidelity building to the new location in 1976.

“It was a Buick, Austin Healey, and MG dealership,” he said. “There was a Chrysler dealership on South Ludlow, a Chevrolet dealership on the other side of the tracks on Main St. and a Pontiac dealership where the Packard Museum is. There were five or six I remember within a few blocks of here.

“Everything was completely different than it is right now. The showroom was here,” he said, pointing from his donor bed in the northeast corner of the donor room. “I always wanted a sports car and I would come here after school and look at cars.”

His first car was a ’67 Pontiac, not the sports car of his dreams, but close enough. The car is long gone. More vivid are the remembrances he wears on his cap: the Army Infantry patch, Combat Infantry medal, Purple Heart and Bronze Star he earned in the Vietnam War.

“In ’68 I was drafted and went to Vietnam and served in the infantry for one year,” he said. “I basically went into combat right away.”

His Purple Heart? “I was in an armored infantry unit and traveled in a personnel carrier,” he said. “One hit a land mine, an ‘IED’ in modern terms. That happened a lot and people were killed. You pretty much didn’t go a week without someone being killed. I was injured and evacuated and was back in the field in about four days.”

The Bronze Star? “That was kind of doing my job, involved in an intense combat situation,” he said. “It would happen sporadically. You never knew. You would go for a while with nothing happening, and then … Living with that constant threat of death was stressful.”

In the decades since he has been a dedicated blood donor, averaging four whole blood donations per year. “My brother started, and that motived me,” he said.

He always donates at the CBC Donor Center, returning to the part of town in his youth that was once car dealership row. “I drive down the street and everything is gone,” he said. “Everything is different.”

Unchanged is why he still comes back. He gives blood, he said, “because it is the right thing to do.”