My Greatest Honor: Dr. Ema talks about her Military Service

Written by Dr. Ema —

I absolutely loved being a dentist in the US Air Force!

While I was never naturally athletic and I’m slightly too pint-sized to look good in the uniform, being an Air Force Captain was by far one of my favorite experiences. Yes, I was active duty and no, I was never deployed to a combat zone (although that was a very real possibility). However, the patients I saw every day were the ones going to the front lines. In my mind I had two main responsibilities: to be ready to go if called, and to care for those who were serving our country. Our dental clinic on a relatively small base in Massachusetts served all active duty personnel within 50 miles, from any branch of the military. That meant I was part of preparing troops from the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, and the Reserves to deploy all over the world.

I remember a unit of Marines “processing” through our clinic in order to get their dental clearance for deployment. I realized then how important it is that they have healthy teeth that won’t cause them pain while they’re in “an undisclosed location” in Afghanistan (my patient’s words not mine). A lack of proper dental care can have serious consequences at anytime, but in the military it was even more vital that we prevent these problems from occurring while our troops are far from home. It was so fulfilling knowing that I had a tangible, positive impact by helping to make our troops healthy and ready to serve our country… and making a positive impact in people’s lives is why I became a dentist in the first place.