(54) Thank You For Your Sacrifice–Even Your Teeth

Molly, the service dogGolly, Miss Molly

A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)


Thanking a Warrior Goes Beyond Thanking For Service

A couple of years ago I met a woman, who works with military families as they experience difficulties adjusting to a warrior’s return from war. I mentioned that in our community we often hear civilians thanking our warriors for their service. She suggested I thank them not only for their service but for their sacrifices, as well. Truly, they give more than just their time to our country to fight and that sacrifice extends to their families.

 Pitfalls of Pistachios

For Christmas, my husband and I sent a package to a veteran we met in a PTSD program. I included pistachios rather than chocolate or cookies because he is diabetic. He mentioned that the VA recently started caring for his teeth and this was the first time pistachios entered his mouth since Vietnam.

I grew up in Indiana, home of the Crest Test Kids, where fluoride added to our water supply proved to build strong teeth. In fact, my mouth is devoid of cavities or fillings in my late 50s. I learned how painful teeth are when I fell off a bike and broke my jaw as a child. I lived with four broken teeth until I could afford to fix them as an adult. Oh, the pain. My chipped-teeth smile reflected in low self-esteem.

Imagine kids growing up in the late 1940s and early 1950s with near perfect teeth drafted into Vietnam. These young men went from boot camp where it is rumored that punishment included scouring latrines with your toothbrush to assignments in the bush in primitive jungle where falling into a feces-staked punji pit topped the list of fears. The last concern for the warrior had to be maintaining the perfect smile.

When my warrior went to war at 18, his mouth sparkled with beautiful teeth. Just two years later, returning from Vietnam on a gurney, his medical care took priority. After two years of hospitalizations, his rotted teeth required 19 fillings. For the decades that followed, complications necessitated multiple surgeries, bone reconstruction, and the addition of bridges to keep teeth functional.

Why all the chatter about teeth?

We take them for granted. A warrior—especially those fighting prolonged periods in remote places—give them up for us. Minor as it may seem, this one sacrifice saddles the veteran for the rest of his/her life with pain, discomfort, and expense. Never again will they possess this God-given treasure.

What else did the warrior sacrifice? For some, the sacrifice includes:

  • Being a part of children’s lives due to multiple deployments
  • Spouses, who cannot handle the adjustments or hardships of living with PTSD
  • Appendages that may have been lost in a battle or from an IED or land mine
  • Normal brain function interrupted by TBI
  • Ability to drive or to drive safely
  • Ability to sleep or think clearly
  • Healthy relationships
  • Desire to live, being free of depression
  • Ability to function in crowded places, normal social life
  • Ability to enjoy life or events
  • Ability to hold a job or to find a job because of disability
  • Hearing or eyesight
  • Ability to birth healthy children due to toxic exposure
  • Stability and predictability in living

I realize this list is shallow compared to the sacrifices of those who serve or have served in our military.

Miss Molly’s Molar

One of Miss Molly’s first medical experiences with us required the removal of a cracked molar. She needed blood tests, surgery, and anesthesia. Since that time, we give her dental treats weekly and have her teeth checked every six months. How ironic that she gets better dental care than her master did when serving in Vietnam. Molly’s teeth may last longer than William’s but his sacrifice—and the sacrifice of others will ensure our freedom lasts forever. Now, that’s a treasure!

 Join Miss Molly in telling the next veteran or warrior you meet, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE AND FOR YOUR SACRIFICE.

Post your Comments:

What sacrifice(s) would you like to add to the list of those sacrifices made by our veterans? Please comment below. 

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.