Dr. Russell Kirk was just establishing his dental office in Lebanon when he received a letter informing him he was to report to active duty in the Navy.
“I had to get a storage unit and put everything in it and go,” Kirk said.
The Obion County native and University of Tennessee at Martin graduate, who was in the U.S. Navy Reserve, closed his private practice after only three years to serve as the staff oral and maxillofacial surgeon at the U.S. Military Hospital Kuwait in conjunction with Expeditionary Medical Facility Dallas.
In 2006, Kirk returned home and re-opened his practice. He settled down and married Dr. Ann-Marie Sutherland, and the couple has two daughters, Presley-Kate, 3, and Harper-Grace, 2.
Each year since he was in the Navy Reserves, Kirk had to complete a two-week training obligation. He’s been to North Africa and, now, this past summer he was in Martin.
“I saw a video on Facebook, and I knew I had to get to Martin to see him,” Larry Wayne Armstrong said.
Armstrong and Kirk grew up together in Troy, played high school football at Obion Central and were roommates at UT Martin.
“I always bring his two little girls corn on the cob,” Armstrong said. “I loaded up a tote sack and brought it to Martin, but there were so many people I left it for him. I sure hope those two little girls got some fresh corn on the cob.”
Armstrong, a wildlife biology major, graduated in December and Kirk graduated in the spring. “I got a job in Alabama, and he came to work with me when he graduated. When Kirk went to dental school in Memphis at the UT Health Science Center in1994, Armstrong ended up in Memphis and roomed with Kirk.
The roommates have stayed in touch over the years, and Armstrong, now a regional wildlife manager in Kenton, tries to always call or see Kirk when he is in Nashville.
A lot of people will use the Innovative Readiness Training as their training. “When I heard this year’s IRT was in Martin, I applied immediately,” Kirk said.
Kirk was among 300 Navy, Air Force and Army personnel who were deployed to Martin this past summer. The primary mission of IRT is to conduct deployment, readiness and logistics training in an expeditionary, multi-service environment.
“This is training for us with benefits to others,” Kirk said.
Kirk and other military personnel involved in dental exams provided more than $300,000 in services, and his group saw more than 500 patients, performed more than 1,500 extractions and 200 restorations.
“Most of us checked in with our gear, and then a pod of dental equipment arrived a couple of days later,” Kirk said. “What happened then was remarkable. None of us knew one another or never worked with one another before. We set up our individual gear and then when the pod got here we set up the rest of our shop. We worked 12-hour clinics so we could see all the people.”
Ruby Black, UT Martin professor of nursing and chairperson of the Board of Hope of Martin, applied for the IRT grant through Hope of Martin Community Development Corp.
While there were no eligibility requirements and all health screenings were free, the IRT program is the part of the U.S. Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs.
Kirk has a solo implant and oral surgery practice with offices in Lebanon and Mt. Juliet, and he is the president and chief executive of a medical waste company and a senior dental executive with the U.S. Navy for Expeditionary Medical Facility in Great Lakes, Ill.