Dental hygienist Erin Riley takes x-rays of veteran Alan Shoemake’s teeth prior to cleaning them. (Bob Smith | Kitsap Daily News photo)

Dental hygienist Erin Riley takes x-rays of veteran Alan Shoemake’s teeth prior to cleaning them. (Bob Smith | Kitsap Daily News photo)

Dentist helps out vets in need

Dental day for veterans was named in honor of the late Mike Licari.

PORT ORCHARD — For Dr. Ron Schoepflin, Veterans Dental Day Oct. 19 was the result of him wanting to help veterans any way he could. For veterans needing some dental care, it was a welcome and needed gift of thanks for their service.

Schoepflin, a South Kitsap dentist with a practice on Mile Hill Drive, said he had a desire three years ago to “be helpful” in some way to the veteran community in the area. He had taken part in a number of Stand Down events over the years, which is where he met Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2669 leader Mike Licari.

Dr. Ron Schoepflin (center) is surrounded by his dental team. (Contributed photo)

Dr. Ron Schoepflin (center) is surrounded by his dental team. (Contributed photo)

Licari suggested he stop by the Port Orchard VFW post to learn a little more about the veterans in the community and find out what needs they had that weren’t being unfulfilled. That’s when he met Angela Smith, who herself has been active in efforts to assist veterans. The three brainstormed and came up with a plan to offer a Veterans Dental Day in which vets and their families could come to Schoepflin’s office for basic dental care, such as cleaning, an exam and x-rays.

Mike Licari

Mike Licari

The initial dental day took place three years ago — and continues today to serve veterans in need of dental care.

As of 1 p.m. on Oct. 19, about a dozen veterans and family members had been seen by Schoepflin and his dental team. The basic services, including an exam, cleaning and x-rays, were performed without charge.

Not surprisingly, a substantial number of those who visited were found to be needing more substantial dental work. The veterans and family members requiring more work had gone without dental care for a number of years due to the expense it would require. One of the patients the dentist examined needed to have a tooth pulled, which was done as part of the first step in a treatment plan.

“That’s where my heart is — with veterans,” Schoepflin said, between attending to patients.

The dentist, who has had his practice on Mile Hill Drive since 2001, said he’s looking to set up an ongoing program to provide veterans’ dental care at a much-reduced rate. He expects to provide cleanings, x-rays and an exam to vets for a top rate of $50; if that’s still unaffordable for some, Schoepflin said his office will accept whatever they can afford to pay.

Veterans Dental Day this year was poignant. The event, in fact, has been renamed the Mike Licari Veterans Service Day in honor of the local VFW leader, who died May 1.

While Schoepflin took a break from helping veterans with their dental needs, dental hygienist Erin Riley took x-rays of veteran Alan Shoemake’s mouth before cleaning his teeth.

Another event for veterans that Licari started — Bowling for Veterans — will take place from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21 at Hi-Joy Bowling, 1011 Bethel Avenue in Port Orchard. It is the eighth annual fundraiser for VFW Post 2669. Described as a “family event,” it will include bowling, raffles, silent auctions and support services for veterans in need of holiday assistance.

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