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'Military service gives me a sense of purpose'

Army major serves as base dentist in Kosovo

April 20, 2016

By Jennifer Garvin

Service minded: Maj. Philip Estes meets some of the Kosovo children during his March 2016 deployment.
Frisco, Texas — Long before he joined the United States Army and became a dentist, Maj. Philip Estes was service minded.

It started early, during his Boy Scout days, when he longed for a chance to serve his country.

"Military service gives me a sense of purpose," said Maj. Estes, 42, who spent December 2015-March 2016 as the base dentist for Camp Bondsteel in the Republic of Kosovo. His deployment to the Balkans was part of a NATO mission to provide a safe and secure environment for the people of Kosovo.

During the three-month deployment, Maj. Estes treated nearly 200 soldiers and civilians from six different countries, providing them with emergency care, extractions, temporomandibular joint disorder treatment, root canals, various restorations and management of oral trauma.

Maj. Estes, president-elect of the North Texas Dental Society, has devoted more than half his life to service.

Upon graduating from Marquette University on an Army scholarship in 1996, he served five years on active duty as an Ordnance Officer before joining the National Guard. It was during this period that he visited Kosovo for the first time as part of the 47th Forward Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, First Armored Division.

He started dental school in 2003 at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and finished in 2009, missing two years when he deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He took a break from service from 2006 until 2011 to complete dental school and focus on building up his practice but found he missed serving. So in 2011, he signed up for the Army Reserves.

"I went back into the military fully knowing the costs for myself and my family," he said, "But my wife and I decided that service to our country was just too important for us not to do."

His wife of 21 years is Jennifer Sue Estes, his high school sweetheart and office manager. She's not "in uniform" but Dr. Estes credits Jenny with serving her country all the same.  

"There can not be enough said about our military families and their service, whether active duty or reserves. She inspires me!" he said.

The couple has two children: Nate, 19, a freshman at Texas A&M Kingsville and Army Reserve soldier and Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadet; and Maddy, 15, a high school sophomore.

In addition to treating dental problems in Kosovo, Dr. Estes and his team visited local villages to educate children on oral hygiene and handed out oral hygiene supplies.

"I feel blessed to have been born in such an amazing country that values freedom, opportunity and strength," he said. "It has always been my ambition to be a part of the greatness of the United States and to add to it, God willing."