By Jill Grant, Reporter At Large
Veteran and retired dentist, Mark Weiman, 73, always puts his country first, whether he is stationed at a military base or helping to preserve the health of veterans.
This is his story…
Growing up In Evanston, IL, in a neighborhood surrounded by veterans, Mark had strong
support from the community. His father, a retired veteran, also served as a role model.
“It was a very strange time in history,” he explained. “It was a divided country just like it is today.”
The country was divided during the “hottest part” of the Vietnam War. A true patriot, Mark
chose to serve in the military, even though he knew he could be drafted to serve in Vietnam.
“I was prepared to do what anyone asked of me,” he said.
An ambitious scholar, he was appointed to the United States Military Academy in 1967 by Congressman Donald Rumsfeld and started at West Point Academy, a “solid college,” where he was immediately challenged by a rigorous program.
While most colleges focus mainly on academics, at West Point he was required to maximize his physical strength, develop his leadership skills, and achieve academic excellence.
“At West Point, you really learn how to compete and fight. If you’re weak in a certain area, you strive to get better,” he explained. “You also strive to make the people around you get better, so that they can be the best they can be at representing our country.”
After graduating from West Point in 1971, Mark was prepared to go to war, but instead was stationed in a field artillery in the 2nd armored division known as “Hell on Wheels.”
He served in his division and then used the GI Bill provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to help fund dental school at the University of Pennsylvania. He started a private practice soon after earning his degree.
His main office was in the Chicago Loop where he treated a diverse population of patients, including doctors, lawyers, politicians, athletes, musicians, and veterans.
Mark also had several offices in underserved communities in Chicago ,“in the tougher areas,” to ensure proper dental care for all.
During his 40 years practicing dental medicine, he gave high priority to bacterial and viral infections, finding creative ways to combat them by all means necessary.
He also developed innovative techniques that many of his colleagues deemed impossible, including removing a patient’s tooth, repairing it, and putting it back into the patient’s mouth.
Mark’s pioneering efforts caused him to become well-reputed among his colleagues in the U.S. and overseas. In the 1990’s he was invited to speak at the Czech Republic to advise leaders on how dental medicine was practiced in a free society.
Mark is a humble man.
When asked how he acquired his reputation and was able to discover new solutions to difficult dental problems, he said, “On any given day, I just did my best.”
Pinpointing the Pain Points of Veterans
While practicing dentistry, Mark served a lot of veterans and became adamant about vocalizing their concerns over minimal dental care coverage from the VA.
Today’s dental coverage is limited mainly to veterans who were former prisoners of war, rated 100% disabled, or in need of dental care because of an injury that was incurred while in the military.
Mark advocates dental coverage for all veterans. He identified problems that can arrive from inflammation of the mouth including diabetic complications, malignancy, and orthopedic surgeries, and feels a great deal of empathy for people suffering from these conditions.
He told the story of a friend and star athlete who recently died after having ongoing orthopedic surgeries, experiencing worsening health problems as a result.
“Redoing surgery is more likely to lead to greater complications,” he said. “Subsequent
surgeries can create more problems than previous ones.”
Comparing the health of teeth to the rest of the body, Mark expressed passionately that “We’re taking care of veterans’ medical problems, but dental issues affect them medically as well.”
He alluded to his attendance at the prestigious Lincoln Society luncheon commemorating Pearl Harbor Day where he was asked to give the keynote speech to a group of prominent figures in the U.S.
A storyteller by nature, Mark spoke about the United States’ massive defeat during Pearl Harbor and how Japanese intelligence wavered over whether to go after California next. The invasion did not occur.
“The Japanese intelligence decided that the veteran communities in California and surrounding states were too strong,” he explained. “Veterans have a special set of skills. They would have defended our country.”
In 2010, Mark campaigned as a Republican in the 7th Congressional District but lost to his opponent.
After the campaign, he was approached by the Governor of Indiana, now former Vice President Mike Pence, who congratulated him at a social gathering.
“You got more votes per dollar spent than anyone in the country,” Mike Pence told Mark,” recognizing Mark’s fiscal responsibility.
No longer in the military and retired from dentistry, today Mark and his wife live in North
Carolina where there is a large veteran community. Although he is retired, Mark continues to advocate for veterans’ rights.
He currently remains Director of SOS America (Service Over Self) and the Coalition of
Veterans Organizations (CVO).
In North Carolina, he speaks out against the VA’s minimal coverage for veterans.
A powerful speaker, storyteller, and advocate, Mark does his best every day to continue the fight to expand coverage on a national level.
“We are living in challenging times, and we never know when veterans will be needed again,” he said with conviction. I want our veterans to stay strong, so they can keep others from doing harm to the United States of America.”