December 12, 2007 Edition

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Gardner to take practice overseas

Dr. Robert Gardner, local dentist, completes a cleaning on Anna Bland, one of his last patients before he leaves for a deployment to Iraq.

Gretchen Hunt

Some may not know that in addition to being a dentist who practices in Walnut Ridge, Dr. Robert Gardner has used his skills to help many others through the Arkansas National Guard.

Now, just two weeks before Christmas, he is planning to do so again with a tour in Iraq.

This will be Colonel Gardner's third deployment with his last one being in 2003 at the war's beginning.

"I am hoping for a short tour," Gardner said. Though he is sad that he will miss Christmas with his wife, Becky, and daughter, Jordan, and his daughter's 12th birthday, he is glad that the deployment should only be six to eight months at the most.

He said medical professionals often do rotations so they will be gone from their practices for shorter periods of time.

Gardner, who is also the state dental officer for the Arkansas National Guard, said he is grateful to those he has served in his nearly 28 years of dentistry.

"My patients have been loyal," he said.

Gardner will leave Saturday for Fort Benning, Ga., from where he will leave for Kuwait on Dec. 21. Once in Iraq, his time will begin.

In Iraq, he will be serving with the 213th Area Medical Support Company out of North Little Rock. He will provide dental services for whoever is in need, including U.S. soldiers, other coalition forces and insurgents who are taken into custody.

Back on the home front, Gardner's receptionist, Linda Hembrey, will still be in the office Tuesday through Friday, and Dr. John Rowe and a dental hygienist will work at least one day a week.

"That will help keep basic procedures and emergencies taken care of," Gardner said.

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