NEWS | Sept. 20, 2021

Oklahoma National Guard Airman donates breast milk to Louisiana baby in need

By Sgt. 1st Class Mireille Merilice-Roberts, Oklahoma National Guard

When nearly 500 Oklahoma Air and Army National Guardsmen answered the call to provide emergency relief to individuals impacted by Hurricane Ida, one Airman saw this as an opportunity to give back despite still breastfeeding.

Oklahoma Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Macey Winegarner, a Mustang, Oklahoma resident and air transportation non-commission officer with the 137th Special Operations Wing, heard about the disaster relief mission and felt compelled to volunteer and serve.

“I’ve deployed and have done several temporary duty assignments,” said Winegarner. “I’ve never been able to help during a state of emergency. The people of Louisiana needed help and I wasn’t going to let my breastfeeding needs hold me back.”

Oklahoma Guardsmen who were activated in support of Hurricane Ida assisted with distributing food, water and basic supplies through point of distribution sites in or near the most devastated areas in Louisiana.

Upon arrival to her designated POD site, Winegarner scheduled pumping sessions and adjusted from pumping every two – three hours to every four – six to maintain her supply. Undeterred by the less than ideal circumstances, she was able to pump and store almost 30 ounces a day. Knowing that her storage method was short-term, she had to find alternative storage or dump the milk.

“I couldn’t bare the idea of dumping perfectly good breast milk,” Winegarner said. “That’s when I had the idea to donate.”

Winegarner took to Facebook and found a network group that connects breast milk donors to mothers in need of supply. Mothers affected by Hurricane Ida quickly responded to her post.

“A grandmother found my post on Facebook and messaged me wanting to pick up my breast milk for her two month old granddaughter,” Winegarner said.
The mother, affected by Hurricane Ida, had experienced a milk reduction and was only able to produce about four fluid ounces a day. In addition to her milk reduction, the infant was more accustom to breast milk consumption.

“She has had a hard time digesting formula,” said Allayah LeBlanc, the baby’s mother. “We really appreciate her and cannot thank her enough for her donation.”
With the help of her senior leaders, Winegarner was able to schedule two pickups between missions.

“My leadership was very helpful,” she said. “When we moved locations, they checked to ensure my cooler had ice and helped coordinate and arrange the location of pick up.”
In total, Winegarner donated nearly 120 fluid ounces of breast milk.

“It was nice to help under the given circumstances,” said Tech. Sgt. Chris Howell, radio frequency transmission non-commission officer in charge, also with the 137th SOW. “She went above and beyond and filled a need where normally no one would be able to help.”

Winegarner hopes her story will empower others to step outside of their comfort zone.

“The mission wasn’t about me or my needs,” Winegarner said. “I hope the example I’ve set empowers mothers to step-up and fulfill the need in any and all circumstances.”

Activated Citizen-Airmen and Soldiers have since returned to their home stations after providing much needed aid to 77,000 families during the Hurricane Ida relief response. The Oklahoma National Guard remains ready to support other state emergencies, whether it’s for the State of Oklahoma or neighboring states.