My Journey in the Military

By Captain Laura A. (Dykstra) Aeschlimann.

In 1998 I began attending the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry to achieve my dream of becoming a pediatric dentist. During my first year of dental school, I decided to apply for an Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program (“HPSP”) scholarship to help defray some of the expenses of investing in the nine years of advanced schooling to become a pediatric dentist. I was thrilled when I learned I was one of only a handful of applicants to be awarded a three-year HPSP scholarship.

Upon receiving this scholarship, I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force. When I graduated dental school, I was promoted to Captain. In July 2002, I began my pediatric dentistry residency in Omaha, Nebraska at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. During my last three years of dental school and my two years of pediatric dentistry residency, I was on inactive reserve duty.

In June 2004 I completed my long educational journey by graduating my residency program. On July 5th that year I headed off to Commissioned Officer Training at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. After I completed Officer Training in August, I flew to my Active Duty station: Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

At Kadena, I was a member of the 18th Dental Squadron, 18th Medical Group working in a large group dental clinic consisting of 30 dentists and dental specialists. I earned the role of Chief of Pediatric Dentistry during my three years of active duty service there. Prior to the completion of my tour of duty, I was awarded the rank of “Major Select.”

On June 14, 2007 – one year and one day after our son Tanner was born in Okinawa – we were excited to be able to return to South Dakota, to friends and family, and move on to our next chapter in life, having completed a total of eight years active and inactive duty with the US Air Force.

We are grateful for the experiences we had during our time in service and especially are thankful to all the men, women, and family members (“dependents”) who are serving, have served, will serve, and/or have given their lives serving. Thinking of you all and saluting you this Veterans Day.