MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – There are countless stories of service members putting others before themselves, and for one dentist with 1st Dental Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, he is no exception to this theme.
Navy Cmdr. William Lyons is currently preparing for a deployment to the Philippines where he will provide free dental care for the local population. This is not unusual for Lyons, 60, from Dubuque, Iowa, who has been serving in humanitarian assistance projects for nearly 25 years.
“It’s one of the best things I think a person could do,” said Lyons.
“It’s rewarding in more ways than money could ever be.”
The dental humanitarian work usually involves pulling an aching tooth, but sometimes includes a teeth cleaning.
“One time in Vietnam, I went to a school on a project and we had a young girl, probably about 10 years old, who had broken off a front tooth,” said Lyons. “She didn’t have it fixed for a long time, and I was able to put on a restoration to restore the contour and aesthetics. The smile that little girl gave me back is just something I’ll never forget.”
Lyons has been to Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam to provide dental care.
“Every place has its own unique experiences, meeting the different people. They are friendly and just all-around good people; it makes you happy just to provide treatment for them.”
Lyons is prepared to deploy to the Philippines in early March, and is very excited for another opportunity to help a community.
“If one wants to go to a country and meet the people, volunteer work is an excellent way to do that,” said Lyons. “You’re going to link up with some local people and they’ll take you into their group and show you things you wouldn’t see as a tourist.”
According to Lyons, he learns new things every time he volunteers. Whether on the home front in San Diego or overseas in an impoverished country Lyons is ready to help.
“Regardless of what you are doing, it improves you in a sense that is not easy to explain. You get a lot of self-satisfaction out of it,” said Lyons.