San Antonio — A dental officer and dental assistant stand in a field, silent but with looks of determination and service in their steely eyes as they care for a patient.
Similar scenes have played out in everytheater of war and peace the U.S. Army Dental Corps has served in since its formal inception in 1911, and will now be commemorated forever on the grounds of Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.
Conceived in 2017, the U.S. Army Dentistry Monument will be dedicated on March 24 at the U.S. Army Medical Department Museum, featuring three bronze figures partially surrounded by nine granite monoliths symbolizing how the Dental Corps cares for soldiers in any location, at any time.
The monument honors the Dental Corps past, supports the present and inspires the future of Army Dentistry, said Col. (ret) Ron Lambert, D.D.S., past president of the Association of Army Dentistry.
“The monument is a lasting tribute to all soldiers, civilians and spouses who have served and continue to serve in the U.S. Army Dental Care System in support of the U.S. Army, the military mission and our nation,” Dr. Lambert said. “The monument recognizes and honors the selfless service of the diverse members of the Army Dental Care System."
Maj. Gen. (ret) Ted Wong, D.D.S, president and chairman of the Association of Army Dentistry, also praised the monument’s vision of inclusivity.
“The Army Dentistry Monument is a beautifully designed tribute to Army Dentistry and the diverse group of people who contributed to, and helped forge, the storied legacy of this great organization,” he said. “The Association of Army Dentistry, which sponsored and created this monument, also hopes it will inspire current and future generations of Army Dentistry members to make their own contributions, however large or small, to our rich history."
The name plates and the likenesses of the three bronze figures honor the diversity of key personnel represented in Army Dentistry: the father of Army Dentistry, John Marshall, M.D.; the only Army Dentistry Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Capt. Ben Salomon, D.M.D.; and Black and female pioneers, William Birch, D.D.S., and Leonie von Zasch, D.D.S., respectively.
The sculptures amid the monoliths are the culmination of years of effort by the Association ofArmy Dentistry to create a lasting tribute to the soldiers and civilians who have served and continue to serve in the Army Dental Care System in support of the U.S. Army and the military mission, said Col. (ret) Theresa S. Gonzales, D.M.D.
The monument is especially personal for Dr. Gonzales, who has led fundraising for the monument.
“My interest in this monument project is nuanced,” she said. "My older brother served as a Cobra helicopter pilot in Vietnam, and I have always felt that we did not properly venerate the selfless service of the Vietnam-era veterans. Recognition of this cohort of patriots is long overdue and this unique monument was designed and crafted to reflect oral health care delivered at the tip of the spear to those that history tried to ignore.”
The bronze statues of the dental officer, patient and assistant, along with a backpack and supply chest, were created by sculptor Stan Watts and his assistant Tami Brooks in Kearns, Utah.
Video recordings of the narratives for each of the nine monoliths have also been completed by U.S. Army Medical Department Television. Bronze plaques with QR codes will be attached to each of the monoliths, directing visitors to the video recordings.
Bronze plaques with the various categories of donors, including In Memoriam honorees, will be placed on the back wall after the fundraising campaign for the monument has concluded.
For those who wish to support the ongoing fundraising for this project, checks should be made out to the Association of Army Dentistry, and mailed to the association’s headquarters at 914 P Street, NW in Washington, D.C., 20001
Those wishing to contribute with a credit or debit card may go to the Association of Army Dentistry’s website .
On thewebsite, look for “Monument,” then “Donations to Support the Army Dentistry Monument” and makea custom donation for the Army Dentistry Monument .
The mission of Army Dentistry is reflected by the monument, said Chief of the Army Dental Corps, Col. Stephen Tanner, D.D.S.
"The Army Dental Corps is the leader in expeditionary dentistry and sustainment of force readiness. Our Corps mission is to have a ready Dental Corps capable of delivering global dental services anytime, anywhere in order to sustain the readiness of the total military force.”