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“We do as many veterans as we can that day,” said Relaxation Dental Marketing Director John Takacs. “It really is a great day of giving back to those that gave for us. Each year we’ve been able to do more and more.”

The “they” are U.S. military veterans, that Relaxation Dental in Salida honors each year with a day to treat veterans who might otherwise not be able to get dental care. This will be the fifth year for Smiles for Freedom, a service event created by Dr. Nicholas Brown and Jessie Brown, at his offices located at 1222 C street in Salida.

Prior to this year’s event, Relaxation Dental has already donated $50,000 in dental work for men and women veterans. This year they expect to donate another $25,000 in free dental care.

Takacs said the response to this annual free dental event for veterans — which includes veterans from throughout the state not just located in Chaffee County, has been amazing. The schedule fills up fast, but he says “we get them on the schedule. If the main day gets filled, we set another reserve day some weeks later. We try to serve the veterans that we couldn’t get to on the initial day.”

He adds that the kinds of dental work they do are extensive and the dentists put in what usually amounts to a 15-hour day.

“We can’t do an implant in a day, but for this event, we can do cavities, fillings, cleanings and extractions. We will have an additional dentist with us that day so we can do more – actual crowns on veterans’ teeth, that sort of thing.”

Asked why the focus on veterans, Takacs said that Brown’s father was a nuclear submarine technician in WWII. “He is an extremely patriotic man, as am I, and we want to find ways to give back to the veteran community. When it comes to their healthcare, they don’t receive the health care they deserve and sacrifice a lot.”

The day of service starts early, with an opening ceremony hosted by Ray Lines Post #64 in Salida. The flag is raised, taps are played, the National Anthem is sung, Photos are taken, coffee and refreshments are served — and the dental day begins.

Veterans interested in getting on the appointment list should call  719-539-3145.

“It’s a long day, but we want to give back with the tools that we have,” said Takacs. “It turns out to be a really cool day.”