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susan wagner

Senior Chief Hospital
Corpsman Diver
U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Smiles for Veterans

Susan has always been driven by her passions. Early on, she discovered a love of the water, a thirst for education, and a desire to help others. So when a recruiter came to her high school band classroom and spoke about the educational opportunities offered by the U.S. Navy, suddenly it all clicked. Susan realized that joining the military would give her the chance to do what she loved.

While working the emergency room at the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico, she befriended members of the dive team and learned they needed a volunteer to assist their medics with training. Sensing an opportunity to combine her passions for medicine and aquatics, she enthusiastically offered her services. It would mark the beginning of her career as a Navy Medical Deep Sea Diver.

Throughout her 22 years of service, Susan was a key member of dive teams worldwide, including: the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, Naval Special Warfare GroupTwo, Combat Swimmer Trainer - Debt Little Creek, Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center, Explosive Ordnance Group Two; and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit-2, where she assisted with recovery efforts from the Space Shuttle Challenger. She earned several commendations, including service medals, the Law Enforcement Life Saving Award, and recognition from NASA.

After retirement, Susan continued to find ways to assist her fellow veterans. "I love to help others, and as a veteran, it provides me with a way of staying connected to the community while paying it forward," she says of her service. This desire to help others is what led her to become a board member for Smiles for Veterans: an organization dedicated to providing affordable dental care to veterans who are not covered through the Veterans Administration.

Since 2016, Smiles for Veterans has served hundreds of veterans in Arizona. Compassion, respect, dignity, and collaboration are key aspects of the organization's identity, giving each veteran the attention and services they deserve. "Often dental care is all a person needs to allow them to move forward with their new hopes and dreams," Susan says. "I let them know we are here to help them smile."

Learn more about Smiles for Veterans' dental treatment initiatives at

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