Father-Son Veterans Come to RSDM for Care
On any given day, 323 miles is a substantial distance. Yet, it’s one Anthony DelVecchio is willing to drive just to bring his father to Rutgers School of Dental Medicine (RSDM) for an appointment through the VETSmile program.
“It is worth so much that I go from Wayne to Whiting to Newark to Whiting to Wayne,” said DelVecchio, a 58-year-old veteran living in Wayne, NJ. His father, a Korean veteran, lives in Whiting, NJ.
Both DelVecchio and his father are in RSDM’s VETSmile program established in 2022 with generous donations from Delta Dental and HealthCare Foundation of New Jersey. The program provides complimentary dental treatment to veterans for their service.* In its first month, the program had 74 patients enrolled. Now, there are over 90 patients actively receiving treatment.
DelVecchio joined the Air Force at 19. He served for almost eight years and had two honorable discharges. He was based in Texas, Ohio, and New Jersey. With the Reserves, he served during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, working long hours on the flight line at home to help transport equipment, troops, and supplies overseas.
He learned about RSDM’s VETSmile program through the Passaic County Veterans Administration. “I was actively looking for a dentist because I was in pain,” he said.
His dental journey started with extractions that relieved his pain. To date, he has had 23 appointments, including surgeries, implant work, and sinus lift. He also had his teeth cleaned during which he fell asleep.
“Who falls asleep at the dentist?” he asked rhetorically. “This is how relaxed and comfortable I feel here with the dentists that take care of me. It's just amazing service that you get. I'm never going to stop coming here, whether or not the VETSmile program is still intact.”
He also told his father Pasquale DelVecchio about the program. At the time, Pasquale DelVecchio, too, was looking for a dentist and getting estimates that made him “almost drop dead,” he said. “[VETSmile] came as a blessing.”
Pasquale DelVecchio served in the Korean War for 16 months. “I was one of the blessed because there’s people that didn’t make it,” said the 85-year-old. “It’s a terrible thing with all wars.”
He has had 11 visits so far. He mostly had cleaning and restorative work such as fillings. “Teeth are very, very important,” he said. “I'm such a foodie, and I like steaks and meat, and I need all my teeth.”
From the front desk to doctors, all his experiences at the school have been positive. His student doctor, Olajide Akeju of Class of 2024 “is phenomenal,” he said. “I'm so impressed with this place; I would recommend it to anybody.”
*The program currently only accepts veterans from Essex County and dental implants are no longer covered. For more information, call Tayri Leon at (973) 972-4959.