In the weeks before Veterans Day, a Houston dentist met a U.S. Air Force veteran who was struggling with dental issues and decided to surprise him with the gift of $15,000 worth of dental work.
Dr. David Nguyen and Retired Staff Sergeant David Tyler Harmon met at the gym and were still practically strangers when Harmon found out Nguyen was a dentist and decided to book a cleaning.
"I came in for a cleaning, and he's like, 'My goodness!'" said Harmon. "And I start telling him all the pain I'm in."
Dr. Nguyen says Harmon's teeth were in serious disrepair, requiring much more than a cleaning.
"There was infection in his gum tissue, a lot of cracked teeth everywhere, a lot of crowding, a lot of grinding problems," described Dr. Nguyen, a dentist at URBN Dental River Oaks.
The cost to fix Harmon's teeth was greater than he had anticipated.
"I overheard him saying something about sending the paperwork to the VA," said Dr. Nguyen. "I was like, wait, if he were to wait for the VA, it would take months. I saw infection. I said, 'Listen, you need to get this handled right away.'"
Harmon broke into tears recalling Dr. Nguyen's offer to do the dental work free of charge.
"When he heard me say that I couldn't pay the bill, he came in, and he was like, 'Don't charge him anything,'" said Harmon. He added that his problem with severe teeth grinding stems from head trauma from a couple of accidents while serving active duty as a Spanish language linguist for the U.S. Air Force in the early 2000s.
"All veterans are heroes," said Dr. Nguyen. "They give up so much for this country, and whatever I can do just to help him out a little bit, it's all worth it to me."
Dr. Nguyen explained that Harmon's dental work require a year to complete. He's also helping Harmon's teen daughter with dental work free of charge, a gift of gratitude in return for a gift of service to the U.S.
"I love this guy," said Harmon. "I would take a hundred bullets for this guy, for this doctor, in a second."