News: 70-year-old dentist volunteers for deployment
CAMP ADDER, Iraq - It's never too late to serve your country.
When Col. Richard Asami retired from the Army in 1999 after 40 years of service, he thought his military career was finally at a close. Then a few months ago, 70-year-old Asami came across an advertisement asking retirees to voluntarily deploy and decided to don the uniform one last time.
"I think it was my duty, instead of staying home and waving a flag, to come and help the troops," said Asami, a resident of Fresno, Calif.
At first, Asami's family " his wife, three children, and one grandchild " had a divided reaction to his decision to return to the Army, he said.
However, when Asami passed his physical exam, they fell solidly behind him.
Asami, not wanting to 'see the same places" he"d served all his life, requested to deployd outside of the continental U.S.
When he found he could spend 90 days at Camp Adder, Iraq, as a dentist under the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division, a division two of his uncles had served under during World War II; Asami knew it was the opportunity he was looking for.
Though Asami had been mobilized twice before " first to a hospital in Tacoma, Wash., as a Medical Corps officer, during the Berlin crisis, and again to Germany as a dentist in support of the mission in Bosnia three decades later " his first deployment to a designated combat zone.
Asami arrived in Iraq on March 17. He now treats servicemembers at a dental clinic run by the 502nd Dental Company., based out of Fort Hood, Texas.
His responsibilities include mostly teeth cleaning, but occasionally something more substantial like a tooth extraction.
The 70-year-old veteran quickly built a reputation for his genial smile and ability to put nervous patients at ease with his disarming sense of humor.
"I like the way he works," said Sgt. Thomas Barragan of the 485th Quartermaster Company, who was Asami's patient.
"He's very comfortable, very pleased in his work. He's a very polite man â?¦ he knows how to make a Soldier feel at ease and good."
Spc. Leticia Riley, Asami's assistant who prepares instruments and takes X-rays of Asami's patients, has also noticed his charm.
"I love being his assistant, it's so much fun and it doesn't make me feel stressed out," Riley said. "He's just a lot of fun to work with."
"I hope more retired people will come in and help," Asami said.
Asami said he hopes his example will inspire more retirees to step in and help the troops.