A Veteran of the Navy and the Coast Guard, Cliff was exposed to Agent Orange. After going through chemotherapy to beat cancer, he lost his teeth. He was not eligible for dental care through the Veterans Administration or any other state agency. While saving to afford dentures, he lost weight and his health deteriorated in other ways. Ayuda’s Smiles for Veterans program was able to obtain dental services through the generosity of a local dentist who donated his services free. We lost Cliff not long ago but he was able to eat his favorite foods, steak and cashews for the last 2 years of his life. And we got to see him smile.
Thomas was part of the military’s nuclear testing team in Nevada. Currently a resident of the Arizona State Veterans Home, he needed dentures. His minimal remaining teeth made it difficult for him to eat and he was ashamed of how he looked. His goal was to be able to attend a reunion of Navy Nuclear Weapons Association. Ayuda’s Smiles for Veterans program received a donation of dentures for him from a local dental lab.
After returning from active duty, Janelle became a government contractor here in Tucson. Last year, she lost her job and subsequently lost her home and ended up living in her car. She needed dental work done, not only for the obvious health reasons but to give her the confidence she needed to rejoin society. Ayuda’s Smiles for Veterans program arranged and paid for the needed dental work. After it was completed we received her call telling us how wonderfully the dental clinic had treated her. She then told us that she was going to continue her regular dental care with the dentist and pay for it herself because she got a job.
Larry was career Air Force and retired with disability. His Military pension and Social Security total only $1000 a month leaving very little to save towards dental care. Ayuda’s Smiles for Veterans program has been able to negotiate reduced costs for his needed dental care.
Former Staff Sergeant, Mark Jablonka, a disabled Veteran who served in the Air Force Security Forces from 1973 to 1990. Mark says he was fortunate when he heard about the Smiles for Veterans Program. Now, Mark can smile at people he would not have before. Mark says, “This program helped me regain my dignity.” Now, he and his employer reap the benefits a smile brings. Mark works as a mentor for Rally Point, a Tucson-based organization wherein Veterans help Veterans through trying times.