CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Commander William J. Lyons is a silent professional. Having just returned from his dental outreach mission in Sri Lanka, he did not want credit or his story to be told.
Lyons merely wanted to help people. Prior to this, he traveled to the Philippines with the same mission in March as part of operation Pacific Angel 2013.
The 60-year-old dentist with 1st Dental Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, has been an active-duty service member for 30 years and has conducted dental missions and health service outreach programs in numerous places overseas.
Taking care of people is what gives Lyons fulfillment, he said.
“(Early on,) I enjoyed biology and the study of life and I developed an interest in health,” said Lyons, a native of Dubuque, Iowa.
This passion was what fueled Lyons to pursue academic degrees in the health and dental fields, obtaining a doctorate in dental surgery from the University of Iowa and a Master of Science in Oral Biology from George Washington University.
“I’ve been involved in the health field for many years. I was a registered nurse prior to being a dentist,” said Lyons.
For Lyons, military life and humanitarian operations like Pacific Angel provided further avenues to learn about people and gave him the ability to help them.
“Not only is it an effort to reach out and help people, but it’s also an effort to work with foreign counterparts and exchange knowledge,” said Lyons.
Because of this, Lyons is grateful to the military for the knowledge and experience it has granted him.
“The military broadened my horizons and allowed me to go to other countries, like Thailand and the Philippines,” said Lyons. “When you start thinking about your life and how things are going, you always need to think about how people from other countries are just getting by. You always feel fortunate to be from a country such as the United States.”
Lyons recounted his experience of helping those less fortunate overseas.
“In Vietnam, a young girl, maybe 8 or 10 years old had broken off her front teeth and, as a dentist, I was able to fix those teeth which had certainly bothered her for a long time,” said Lyons. “When I was finished she just looked at me and gave me the biggest and warmest smile and it made me think that I have to continue helping people this way.”
Despite serving his country and helping those around him for nearly four decades, Lyons ensures that he will keep making a difference in other people’s lives for decades to come.
“You can’t do everything, but you can always do something,” said Lyons.