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It's the mission that matters: Zionsville optometrist helps hurricane victims

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CNHI News Indiana/Submitted photo
Zionsville optometrist Matthew Weinheimer assisted many
children with eye exams and glasses fittings during his recent Navy
Reserve deployment to Puerto Rico. He is a Sullivan native.

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After serving his country in the U.S. Navy, Matthew Weinheimer decided
to re-enlist as a Navy Reservist. The Zionsville resident is married
and has two small children but he and wife Libby feel their true
calling is to serve their country.
Weinheimer, a native of Sullivan and graduate of Sullivan High School,
received his bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and enrolled to
optometry school in Illinois. He enlisted with the Navy and received a
four-year active duty scholarship.
In 2014, the couple was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. In 2017, they
were relocated stateside to a Navy base in Jacksonville, N.C., where
Matt would complete his military assignment. Afterward, the couple
moved to Zionsville.
“Military has always been an important part of my life and of our
family life,” he said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to help our
country, but it takes the support of your spouse. I wouldn’t have been
able to do any of this without Libby. It’s very true that the spouse
serves as much as the solider and it’s something very special that
they do.”
Libby Weinheimer added, “Service is a matter of what you’re willing to
do and to serve our country fulfills the desire Matt and I share. Matt
impresses me daily because he always wants to help others.”
The Weinheimers missed military life and the bond they shared with
their military family so they began to explore the idea of Matt
joining the Navy Reserves.
“As his wife, my job is to support him, so he can support others,”
Libby said. “We both felt this was the right thing for us to do.”
As an active reservist, Matt is required to serve one weekend per
month and two weeks per year at Fort Harrison. He recently returned
from two weeks active duty in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
“Puerto Rico is still rebuilding from Hurricane Maria,” he said. “As
part of our service, we participate in innovative readiness training
and go into rural areas to help people. Ponce is not a rural area, but
special circumstances allowed us to assist them. They had a great
need.”
Matt is an optometrist at Zionsville Eye Care. In Ponce, he was able
to combine his daily work with his active duty service and helped to
provide eye exams to residents.
“In nine days, we did over 800 eye exams and distributed 1,000 pairs
of glasses,” he said. “We were very busy, and we helped as many people
as we could.”
Matt was the officer in charge at Ponce where four optometrists worked
around the clock to take patients. People began lining up outside the
makeshift exam room at midnight. The first exams began at 8 a.m.
“Several of our patients were 50 to 60 years old and had never had an
eye exam,” he said. “They needed both glasses and readers. They were
thrilled to receive help and to then be able to read the newspaper in
the morning and Bible at night.”
Weinheimer’s unit also saw more than 200 children, with the majority
being ages 8 to 10.
“I was glad that people brought their children because kids who see do
better in school,” Weinheimer said. “Better sight makes better
students.”
In total, six sites were set up across Puerto Rico and reservists from
the Navy, Army National Guard and International Guard served. Using an
indoor gymnasium, the units built exam rooms for patients to be seen.
“Puerto Rico is not at 100% yet,” he said. “It was nice to go
and help them. Not only were eye exams given but dental work was also
done, and physical exams were completed. In the instance they needed
medicine, doctors filled the prescriptions free of charge. It was a
very successful trip and I look forward to the next IRT.”
This was the first IRT Weinheimer had participated in outside of the
United States, but this was not his first mission trip. While at
Indiana University he went on a medical mission trip to Ghana.
“I loved that trip and being able to help others,” he said. “It was
awesome and now I get to do it again while serving our country.
“Ideally, we hope that as our children get older, we can all go and
serve together with an organization like VOSH. They’re the Volunteer
Optometric Services to Humanity organization and they welcome spouses
and families to serve together.”


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