(EDITOR'S NOTE: The following story was originally printed in the Air Force Dental Service monthly newsletter, and was submitted for reprint to the News Tribune by Maj. David K. Schindler, dental public health specialist, Air Force.)
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story was originally printed in the Air Force Dental Service monthly newsletter, and was submitted for reprint to the News Tribune by Maj. David K. Schindler, dental public health specialist, Air Force.)
For the News Tribune
Born and raised in Keyser, Aaron Wilson enlisted in the Air Force after high school in 1952, just three years after the AFDS was established, and during the height of the Korean War.
Rising to the rank of staff sergeant during his initial four-year enlistment as a dental assistant in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Tokyo, Japan, he fell in love with dentistry thanks to his mentor, Dr. Fred Logan.
He separated in 1956 and studied dentistry at West Virginia University, graduating in 1962. Commissioned as a captain, he completed a dental internship at Chanute AFB, Illinois, followed by assignments in Stead AFB, Nevada, Iraklion AB, Greece, and Dover AFB, Delaware.
Returning home in 1968, he was quickly hired by Dr. Cliff Sturdevant (author of the definitive book on Operative Dentistry) to teach at the UNC School of Dentistry.
But his second love (after Vonnie, his wife of 64 years), the Air Force, called to him and he volunteered to return to active duty service in 1972 during the height of the Vietnam War. He served at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, and then at Ubon AB, Thailand. From 1974-1983, he taught in the Comprehensive Dentistry residency program and served as base dental surgeon at Lackland AFB. He then helped teach in the newly established AEGD-2 program at Keesler AFB and retired in 1988, being awarded the Legion of Merit.
His passion for dentistry and his patients never left though, and he returned to Lackland AFB that year to serve as a contract dentist for another three decades.
When he looks back at his long and storied career in the Air Force, he reflects proudly that “I did the best dentistry I was capable of and it was appreciated. What’s kept me going so long is that I’ve always had a passion for doing excellent dentistry, for our patients, and for teaching residents.”
Consequently, his charge to today’s AFDS service members: “Think about what you really enjoy doing. If you can make a living at it then do it, because if you really love what you’re doing daily, then you’ll never work a day in your life.”
His remarkable legacy of 63 years in service to the Air Force and his patients may never be surpassed.
We are extremely grateful for his leadership and mentorship to hundreds of dental officers and enlisted and for the outstanding dental care he provided for tens of thousands of patients throughout a career that spanned nearly seven decades.
If you’d like to pass along your gratitude to Col (ret.) Wilson, he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.