Independence Day is a good time to appreciate those who help safeguard American freedoms through their military service.
At MCHC Health Centers, many of our employees are military veterans and two of our providers, physician assistant Larry Aguirre and dentist Dr. Kevin Paige, are active reservists.
Larry Aguirre has served as a medical officer in the National Guard Reserves for five years. As a younger man, he considered a full-time military career, in part because his grandfather and father served, but as he pursued his education, the idea of military service began to fade. That is, until he realized he could do both: have a civilian career and serve his country, too.
Aguirre chose the National Guard, a division of the Army, because he liked the idea of being able to serve at home and abroad. National Guardsmen are called to help in the event of a national emergency, anything from civil unrest to a natural disaster. They can also be called to assist anywhere the U.S. military needs support.
As an officer, Aguirre spends much of his military time training enlisted medics and providing medical care to other reservists. Each year, he serves a minimum of two days each month, as well as a two-week stint at some point during the year (often during the summer). Depending on the need, he can also be called for additional training or for a deployment.
While Aguirre enjoys being in the National Guard, he only recommends it to people who would take pride in it and feel fulfilled by this type of service. He and many of the officers are paid less during their military service than they are for their civilian work, but that’s okay with them because he says they aren’t serving for the pay. Aguirre says he appreciates the opportunity to make a difference.
“If you want to serve your country, work with a diverse group of interesting people from all walks of life for a common mission, then being in the Reserves is great,” he said.
Dr. Kevin Paige agrees. He joined the U.S. Army Reserve at the same time he joined MCHC, a little more than two years ago.
“While in dental school, I had a strong interest in both public health and the military. I tried a more traditional route via private dentistry initially, but found I still longed to pursue public health and/or the military,” Paige said.
Paige is also part of a military family. His grandfather and uncle served with the Navy, and his brother is currently doing the same. However, when he spoke about his plans to join the military with his grandmother, a career navy wife, she strongly suggested a different route because of the stress multiple moves can cause the family.
When Paige started a family, he really appreciated his grandmother’s advice. “I would have a hard time leaving my wife and young child for months on end for regular deployments.”
However, he still felt compelled to serve his country. “The last thing a solider needs to worry about is a abscessed tooth, and I happen to have the skill set to prevent that,” he said.
Like Aguirre, Paige serves two days a month training enlisted personnel and examining soldiers to make sure they are ready for service. Then he participates in a two-week annual training. Sometimes this involves treating an underserved region; sometimes it is a wartime exercise; and other times, it is more extensive training.
“I agree with Larry that the military isn’t for everyone, but I couldn’t see myself doing anything else at this point in life,” he said.
At MCHC Health Centers, we’re proud to support our military reservists.
“MCHC was supportive from my initial interview, encouraging me to pursue my interest in the military as well. My dental director, Dr. Lewis, is former military and was especially enthusiastic. Since joining both, my colleagues and management have openly expressed their support. It’s never been seen as a burden to MCHC, and they’ve been accommodating in my pursuits to serve both my community with them and the country at large with the U.S. Army Reserves,” Paige said.
Becky Driscoll is the Little Lake Health Center site director. Little Lake Health Center is part of MCHC Health Centers, a local, non-profit, federally qualified health center offering medical, dental and behavioral health care to people in Lake and Mendocino Counties.