Give Vets a Smile Day serves about 70 vets who served their country
Eau Claire, WI – Roger Schultz, 82, Of Chippewa Falls, traces some problems he’s had with his teeth back to an old Army injury. But the Korean Conflict era veteran, who served from 1953-56 doesn’t have a dramatic combat story to tell about it.
“I had some front teeth broke in the Army playing football,” he said. “I’ve had problems ever since.”
What he doesn’t have is dental insurance, because veterans’ benefits do not include dental care except in certain circumstances. That’s why Schultz was happy for the opportunity for some free dental care at Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Dental Clinic during the second annual Give Vets a Smile event Saturday, Nov. 12.
“I spent about $8,000 this year on some teeth,” Schultz said. “I have a lot of dental problems, but no dental insurance. I came here for them to check it.”
Schultz was one of about 70 veterans who received dental care at the event, which drew veterans from a wide area across western and northern Wisconsin, with most coming from CVTC’s 11-county district. The program is modeled after the Give Kids a Smile event in February in which free dental care and education are offered for children whose families lack dental insurance or access to dental care.
“We feel strongly that we should be providing care for people who took care of us,” said Deb Schumacher, Dental Hygienist program instructor at CVTC.
Staffing at Give Vets a Smile is provided by CVTC Dental Clinic staff and volunteer hours from area dentists, hygienists and dental assistants. CVTC Dental Hygienist and Dental Assistant program students provided support help.
“Giving back to the people who served us is the number one reason we are all here,” said Dr. Jeff Jones, a dentist with the CVTC clinic. “They have given up more than one day of their lives for us, so we can give up one day for them.”
“This is our favorite outreach activity,” Schumacher said. “The inter-generational interaction goes so well on both sides. And our patients are so grateful.”
“Every one of the veterans I saw thanked me and shook my hand,” Jones said. “When I said ‘thank you for your service,’ they thanked us for our service to them. I just had a 91-year-old WWII veteran, and he shook my hand on the way out.”
An addition to this year’s event was CVTC Respiratory Care students providing vital signs checks and Sacred Heart Hospital staff providing education on COPD and lung diseases, which can have an oral care connection, according to CVTC Respiratory Care instructor Don Raymond.
Veterans came from a wide area, with widely different experiences serving the nation. Phillip Melland of Eau Claire served in the Air Force from 1969-76.
“I was an aircraft mechanic, and I worked on C-130s, C-122s, C-188s. . .” he said providing a list that would impress a military aircraft buff. Back in civilian life, he attended CVTC to learn about refrigeration and worked for 7-Up and Pepsi for many years.
“I came here last year and had one filling done,” Melland said. “They do a very good job. Being a veteran, we don’t get dental insurance.”
Harry Hicks of Augusta graduated from CVTC’s Machinist program in 1964, back when the school was called Eau Claire Technical Institute, and a year later he was a machinist in the Army, serving in Vietnam. He worked at McDonough Manufacturing in Eau Claire for 32 years.
“I came to get some teeth fixed,” Hicks said. “I have a couple that need to be pulled. I’m going to see if they will do it.”
William Wold of Mondovi was in the Navy from 1959-69, serving as a cook or a baker on several types of Navy ships. He said he hadn’t been to a dentist in years, but he lost a filling and just wanted the tooth pulled.
Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education which improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the larger community. Campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west central Wisconsin. CVTC is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.
Vietnam veteran Harry Hicks of Augusta leans back in the dental chair as dental hygienist Matt Rindhal, a Navy Veteran and Osseo native, works on him at the second annual Give Vets a Smile event at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire Saturday, Nov. 12. About 70 veterans were provided with free dental care at the event.