This winter, TMCC dental hygiene students helped a veteran in need, and he wasn’t in a dental chair. Instead, veteran Mitch Mendler had planned on displaying the American flag in Carson City for a special ceremony, but as he arrived in the capital city, he received notice that plans had been changed and the volunteers who were scheduled to help him were not available.
Mendler had just returned from a 10-day tour with the American flag that ended in Bastogne, Belgium in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Mender, along with his father and other World War II veterans, were on hand with the flag for the memorial ceremony.
“We were in Malmedy on the morning of the 17th where 84 U.S. soldiers were killed by the SS Nazi German army,” said Mendler. “We displayed the flag at the memorial and traveled to the airport for the marathon trip home.” The plan was for Mendler to perform a similar memorial in Carson City at the state capital the following day. It was a plan that almost didn’t come to fruition had it not been for TMCC Dental Hygiene students.
“I almost canceled my plane flight to Reno and thought about going home and making another attempt to visit Carson City in the future,” said Mendler. However, a friend and WWII veteran that he’d met on the trip told Mendler to go to Carson City regardless, counseling him that finding volunteers for that sort of patriotic event wouldn’t be a problem.
When Mendler arrived in Carson City the day the event, he struggled to find volunteers to help him display the flag. Then, he encountered TMCC Dental Hygiene students.
“I asked some students to help from the Truckee Meadows Community College dental hygiene program. It only took one minute to get them on board with the program… they helped with overwhelming excitement,” he said. “If it was not for their help, the flag would not have been displayed.”
Mendler’s sentiments bring to mind words by American Cultural Anthropologist Margaret Mead who said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.”