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“I worked in the Army for three years as a “Sixty-Eight Whiskey,” or “68W,” which is a combat medic. I started as a specialist and I was promoted to sergeant by the time I left. I was born in Seoul, Korea, but I lived most of my life in Ukraine. My dad’s job initially sent him to Ukraine, and he decided to stay. I came to the U.S. as a college student, by myself, with just two suitcases, to Buffalo, New York. And I had a dream of becoming a dentist. But my family could not afford dental school. And as an international student, I was not able to get loans. Fortunately, the Army has a program where I could join the military and get citizenship.
I got to know that a lot of new soldiers have never been to dental offices. Some needed multiple dental treatments, even surgeries. During the time they’re in the Army, they’re covered. But after they leave the military, most lose those dental benefits. There is a misconception: People think the VA will cover everything, but less than 10 percent of veterans can receive full benefits.
I volunteer for Service with a Smile, where Tufts dental students and faculty screen veterans and refer them for dental care. When I say I’m a veteran, they are more willing to be open—they become more attached, I guess I would say. There are a lot of veterans in the community who do not reveal themselves as veterans, but they need our help and our attention. They sacrificed time in their life to serve our nation. We have to give back to them with our skills and our attention.”
Yoon Na Choi, D23, left the Army with the rank of sergeant, and is attending Tufts University School of Dental Medicine through the military’s Health Professions Scholarship Program. She will return to Army service after she receives her DMD degree.
#OurTufts is a series of personal stories shared by members of the Tufts community. [📸: Alonso Nichols/Tufts University] See more stories here!


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