As we celebrate Independence Day, we recognize that it is a time for us to reflect on the bravery and sacrifices made by our military veterans. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the incredible impact that supporters of our Lifeline Heroes Challenge (LHC) have in supporting those who have served our country. Today, we want to share the inspiring story of Wilton, a courageous Afghanistan War veteran, whose life was transformed through the generosity of DLN and its dedicated volunteers.
Wilton, a 73-year-old veteran residing in Riddick, FL, dedicated an impressive 36 years of his life to military service before retiring. Following his deployment in Afghanistan, he faced the daunting challenges of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and a spinal fusion in his neck. Additionally, years of chewing tobacco led to pre-cancerous lesions in his mouth, resulting in the removal of all his teeth and part of his upper and lower jaw bones.
Due to the Veterans Administration only offering dental coverage connected to military service, Wilton had to pay $4,000 out-of-pocket for this extensive work. The additional treatment required to transform his oral health – restoring his jawbone and being fitted for dentures – was far beyond his reach.
Wilton’s journey to regain his oral health was met with financial obstacles. The Veterans Administration only provides dental coverage for issues directly connected to military service, leaving him responsible for a $4,000 out-of-pocket expense for his extensive dental work. The subsequent treatments required to restore his jawbone and obtain dentures were beyond his means, and other safety net resources denied coverage. Wilton found himself living on a diet of soups and liquids, unable to enjoy the simple pleasure of eating solid food.
Fortunately, after years of a diet consisting of soup and liquids, Wilton’s path crossed with the Moffitt Cancer Center, where he learned about Dental Lifeline Network. Dr. Wayne Harper, a dedicated DLN volunteer since 2019, stepped forward to help restore Wilton’s oral health. Recognizing the complexity of Wilton’s case and his extensive needs, additional volunteers and laboratories rallied together to assist in his journey towards a healthy mouth.
Wilton received donated care valued at $28,000. This generous support enabled him to undergo bone grafts and receive full upper and lower dentures. The impact was profound, as it not only restored Wilton’s oral health and ability to eat but also gave him back his smile—the joy of which extended to his 5-year-old grandson, who was no longer “freaked out by no teeth!”
“Our appreciation cannot really be expressed in words – thank you, you are a blessing,” Wilton’s wife, Andrea, shared.
Dental Lifeline Network and the remarkable volunteers who worked tirelessly to restore Wilton’s oral health are honored to serve veterans like him. Each year, DLN and its dedicated volunteers become the last hope for approximately 1,000 veterans who would otherwise be unable to access the vital dental care they require. However, there are still many more veterans waiting for help. You can help change their lives by supporting our Lifeline Heroes Challenge to enable dental care for more veterans like Wilton. Click the button below to become a supporter today!