CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Raymond Hait is a 72- year-old purple heart veteran who fought in Vietnam.
Over the years he has lost several teeth and hasn't had the money to replace them.
“My mouth was damaged when my best friend was walking point and let go of a bamboo and it slapped me in the mouth," Hait said.
Hait soon learned about the 'Smiles for Soldiers' program.
“I like to sing in the choir at church but I had to stop because I looked funny up there," Hait said. "When the pastor said smile I looked mad because you could only see five bottom teeth.”
Carolinas Center for Oral and Facial Surgery in Charlotte gifted Hait a $50,000 dental makeover completely for free.
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“And I just broke down," Hait said.
Research shows 94% of veterans don't qualify for dental care and COVID-19 is making access even more difficult.
The Smiles for Soldiers program is working to combat that statistic.
“You can eat right, you put your hand over your mouth because you don’t look funny to people," Hait said.
Thanks to programs like 'Smiles for Soldiers,' Hait has a new reason to smile.
“The surgery went well," Hait said.
A smile that will not only help him eat healthy again but also give him confidence that he lost.
When the choir is back I will be back in the choir, I'll smile all the time, it's life-changing," Hait said.
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