His dreams ofthe big time had all but faded after two decades of hard luck, homelessness and substance abuse. Then, the 56-year-old piano player and Sergeant of the Marine Corps found hope in an unlikely place: Indianapolis. His music career had picked up in Indy but AJ has always suffered from stage fright; not from performing but because of his smile and the condition of his teeth.
Broken teeth from fights and decay have hurt his ego and not having insurance or the ability to be able to afford a dental visit are the reasons why he did not visit a dentist. After two decades AJ, along with a dozen veterans from HVAF, went to the Indiana State Capital for Aspen Dental’s 2nd annual Mouth Mobile Movement on April 28. The community giving initiative delivers free dental care and oral health education to people across the US in need. This year Aspen Dental is focusing on treating of our nation’s veterans.
The past 12 months have blurred together for AJ. He has gone from living in a homeless shelter to receiving housing through HVAF to once again booking jobs to play at clubs. In Indianapolis, people recognize him on the streets. He plays “MacArthur Park” a song which Jimmy Webb wrote and he loves to perform songs by Elton John.There’s a hint of uncertainty in his voice despite his success. He still hasn’t figured out how to make sense of it all.
He still feels pain. After an accident at a construction job in 2010 AJ began using pain pills and an addiction ensued when he was told he could not work again because of his injuries.
“I felt like everything I had done for the past 30 years went down the drain but once I arrived at HVAF for housing and help with recovery I started to see improvements in my attitude and my health. I look forward to once again performing with a clear head and a big smile and after my dental visit I am excited about the possibilities that are ahead. One of my goals includes playing at supper clubs,” adds AJ.