Ohio National Guard News

17th annual GuardCare event provides
medical services to Toledo area

Story and photos by Sgt. Kimberly Johnson, 196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Capt. Francisco Olmeda, a nurse with the Ohio Army National Guard Medical Detachment and a Cleveland native, administers a vaccination to a young girl.

A dentist with the Ohio Army National Guard Medical Detachment administers a free dental screening to a male patient.

Sgt. Sonny Stevenson, a dental technician with the Ohio Army National Guard Medical Detachment and a Columbus, Ohio, native, compiles medical testing data.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The Ohio National Guard, along with the Ohio Department of Health, conducted the 17th annual free medical clinic, GuardCare, for medically underserved residents August 20-21 at the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.

Each year, the Ohio Army National Guard's Medical Detachment partners with ODH and county health departments throughout the state of Ohio to determine which communities have a significant number of their population not receiving regular medical care. They choose one county each year for GuardCare — a free medical clinic on one or two weekends in the summer where local residents can get free vaccinations, blood testing, dental screenings, medical evaluations, hearing and eye examinations, sports physicals and women's health services.

"There are more than 900,000 people in Ohio who need health care and right now, those people do not have ready access to the assistance, when they need it," said Dr. Ted Wymyslo, director of the Ohio Department of Health, and a Toledo, Ohio, native. "GuardCare is an impressive display of a number of people who are committed to taking care of residents in a community who have limited health resources."

Wymyslo has been involved in health care for the underserved for a several years. He says preventative medicine, like GuardCare, is the most important aspect of health care for most communities.

"Without medical insurance, or access to health care, individuals go for long periods of time without identifying health problems," Wymyslo said. "That ultimately leads to care in an emergency room and sometimes hospitalizations that we would like to avoid by administering preventative medicine like GuardCare. These events help identify the needs in the community and link them with the medical services they need."

In the 17 years Ohio Soldiers have been providing GuardCare to Ohio residents, they have seen contingency operations increase in the world, calling them out of their state and out of their country to serve abroad, as well as at home.

"Our Guardsmen, despite of the fact they've deployed overseas, multiple times in some cases, have civilian jobs in the medical field," said Col. John Harris, Ohio assistant adjutant general for Army. "The face-to-face opportunity to serve their community is something we cannot replicate anywhere else in the world, and they absolutely love reaching out to fellow Ohioans in need."

One of those medical professionals is Col. Larry Johnson, Ohio Army National Guard state surgeon and a Scioto County, Ohio, native, who said he knows the positive impact community events such as GuardCare has on the Soldiers of the OHARNG.

"Between the civil-military innovative readiness training, deploying Ohio Soldiers and the GuardCare missions we do overseas, the medical opportunities we do in Ohio and abroad are the real morale builders within the medical detachment," Johnson said. "Doing positive outreaches for the civilian population, in addition to serving Ohio Soldiers, hold a very special place in our hearts. It not only trains our medical Soldiers, but it gives them a sense of satisfaction of giving back to Ohio communities."

GuardCare is a remarkable way to bring everyone together for a common goal: to decrease suffering, Wymyslo said.

"We want the public to know when they see this (Army) uniform, bearing our nation's flag on our shoulder, when the governor calls us into our communities, we are confident and capable and that we are there in their best interest," Johnson said.