'I want veterans to feel honored'
November 28, 2016
Here’s a hero: More than 100 veterans visited Dr. John Gammichia’s dental office on Veterans Day for dental care at no cost.
. — Calling himself a patriotic person with staff members in his dental office whose spouses are members of the armed services, Dr. John Gammichia said making his annual day of service one to support veterans was an obvious choice.
"There's often so much red tape for veterans to get care through established veterans programs," he said. "This was a day to eliminate that burden and serve others that served for us. I want veterans to feel honored."
Dr. Gammichia, his staff and a team of volunteers provided care to 102 patients, the first of whom got in line at the dental office at 4:30 a.m. on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
Twelve dentists, four hygienists, two oral surgeons and a host of other volunteers, including Dr. Gammichia's four children, donated their time, ensuring care for the veterans who came out, he said. Treatments included debridements, restorations and extractions, and his removable denture lab even donated services to help repair partials and start a denture for a veteran "who said he wanted to have teeth before he died," Dr. Gammichia said.
Serving service members: Some of the volunteers behind Operation Bright Smile pause for a photo. Dr. John Gammichia, third from right in the front row, held the event at his dental office in Apopka, Florida.
One volunteer grilled burgers and hot dogs for the patients who had to wait, in a few cases up to six hours, for care. Dr. Gammichia's sister, who owns a hair salon, "came out with one of her employees and they cut hair all day," he said.
The response from patients was profound. One patient ordered pizzas for the staff a few days after the event, while another brought the team a homemade cheesecake. The dental office has received cards and letters since the day of service, too.
"Of course the patients were appreciative," Dr. Gammichia said, "but so were the volunteers. When I overheard the volunteers say 'thank you for your service' to the patients — man, that was cool."
Dr. Gammichia said he plans to hold the same type of program next year on Veteran's Day, and hopes others may be inspired to do the same.
Planning the logistics and marketing the day took a good deal of time and energy, Dr. Gammichia acknowledged, but "it is very rewarding in so many ways."
Dr. Gammichia said he welcomes questions about how to plan a day of service. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org