ZIONSVILLE —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 graduated from Indiana University and went 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 Japan. In 2017 they were relocated stateside to a base in Jacksonville, N.C., where Matt would complete his military assignment. Afterwards, 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 er 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 (IRT) 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 (OIC) 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 percent 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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