During my first tour of duty as an Army dentist, I was stationed at Ft. Jackson, SC—a basic training post where one of my responsibilities was to process in new recruits. Each of these incoming enlistees was given a dental exam as part of their indoctrination into Uncle Sam’s Army. I’m proud to say that over the course of three years, my nimble fingers painstakingly caressed the molars of thousands of new soldiers, many who were seeing a dentist for the first time. My army issued stamped signature was permanently affixed to their official army dental record as proof of our encounter.
Several years later as I was laboring through another bureaucracy induced record audit, I came across my signature in the chart of a patient who was killed in Operation Just Cause—the invasion of Panama. I wish I could say I remembered this brave individual when I treated him, but in reality, his memory to me at that time was nothing more than my signature on his dental chart. It’s hard for me to describe, but nevertheless, that small connection sadly reminded me that a part of that dental record once belonged to a live human being—a person with a family who grieves daily for their loss and a person with a country who should be forever grateful for their sacrifice.
I’m sure all of you have your own personal remembrances of family members who served valiantly in the military, and I encourage you to reflect back upon them today. We may gripe about taxes, health care, the economy and such but the United States is still the model of freedom—a democracy founded on Judeo-Christian values proclaiming God as our creator and espousing the liberty and holiness championed by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. That life is something that we should all guard and treasure in our hearts, souls and minds. A life we should all be willing to die for.
This blog posting was originally published in the May/June 2011 edition of the Kentucky Dental Association Today Journal.