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Touched by a warrior

POULSBO — Emily Jensen never met Randal Rosacker.

The two lived in separate towns, lived separate lives and had separate interests.

But when Poulsbo resident Jensen heard of the young Marine’s death last week near An Nasiriya during war in Iraq, she needed to do something.

“When you think about it, it happened overseas but there’s people over there from Bremerton, Silverdale, Poulsbo. A lot of our neighbors are over there,” Jensen said.

The 21-year-old Marine died March 23. His surviving family members all live near the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. His father is a master chief in the Navy at Subase Bangor — the top enlisted man stationed aboard the Trident submarine USS Alabama.

Jensen is now organizing two blood drives in honor of Rosacker — one will take place April 8 in Silverdale, and the other June 10 at Christ Memorial Church in Poulsbo.

It’s an ironic turn of events for a woman who was never supposed to donate blood.

Jensen was born with Spinabifida, and was told her condition would preclude her from donating “the gift of life.” On March 21, she decided to settle the issue by having herself tested for eligibility at the Puget Sound Blood Bank in Silverdale.

“I went in to find out for sure and 20 minutes later one of the volunteers there was taking juice and cookies out to my husband and son in the car because I was donating blood for the first time,” Jensen recalled with pride.

Later, when Jensen heard about Rosacker’s death, she called the blood bank and asked that her donation be listed in honor of the young man killed in combat.

A few days later at a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) meeting at Christ Memorial Church, Jensen said she realized that she wanted to do more. Usually the group’s meetings were informal, but this day they said the Pledge of Allegiance together for the first time and asked all of the military wives to talk about their loved ones.

“It really hit me,” Jensen said. “There’s one mom there who’s 23 years old, with a 4-year-old and a 5-week-old and a husband overseas. I just can’t imagine.”

The memory of giving blood returned to Jensen, and she decided to organize a blood drive with the MOPS group in Rosacker’s name. She said she was disappointed when the earliest date PSBC could give her was June 10, but she remained confident that the drive needed to take place.

“This soldier definitely deserves this because he died protecting us,” Jensen said.

Soon, the MOPS group in Bainbridge Island had also pledged its support and Jensen had 60 people signed up to donate more than two months in advance.

On March 27 Jensen received another call from PSBC that there had been a cancellation and since her June 10 event had overwhelming support they wanted to offer her an April 8 date as well.

She snatched it up.

“It makes the hair on my arm stand up just thinking about what’s going on,” said Jensen.

In order to hold the blood drives in Rosacker’s honor, Jensen also had to call his parents Rod and Debra Rosacker of Bremerton. Rod Rosacker just returned from an deployment aboard the USS Alabama. Jensen said that she was nervous to call the mourning parents, but that the couple were very touched by her efforts and said they supported it 100 percent. Jensen said the Rosackers have indicated, schedules permitting, that they will try to attend one or both of the blood drives.

Jensen said she invited the Rosackers for them to see “the community come together.”

“We only know them through pictures and now through a phone conversation but I now feel like we know them and we share their loss,” Jensen explained. “He was their family, but he was a member of our community. We all lost a great person.”

Blood Drives to honor Cpl. Randal Rosacker.

• 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 2:45-5 p.m. April 8, Kitsap Mall in front of Mervyns.

• 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 10, Christ Memorial Church, Poulsbo.

Please call (360) 598-3265 to schedule an appointment.

Who Is Eligible to Donate?

• Must be 18 years old (16 with parental consent).

• Must weigh 110 pounds.

• Must be in good health.

• Must not have donated in previous 56 days.

• A medical history will be taken of all potential donors which might preclude others from donating.

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