Earned Their Stripes

Red Maple Dental’s Hoffert Family’s Service

We are a nation built on the extraordinary concept of freedom, all thanks to the fearless men and women who commit their lives to our country. One Asheville family, Shawna and Stephen Hoffert, are the epitome of strong, humble veterans.

Their’s is a story threaded with layers of military service and begins at the outset of Stephen’s military career. After growing up just outside Apex, North Carolina, he enrolled in the United States Air Force Academy. As a student, 9/11 struck at the soul of the country, and the cadets were sequestered on school grounds. When they were released, he and his classmates ventured to nearby Denver for a night out, but he never suspected that he would meet his wife that very night.

Shawna and Stephen realized early on that their’s was more than young love. As they looked to the future, they began to realize some hard truths. Shawna, a dental student, and Stephen, a pilot, were essentially destined to a life of long-distance, both committed to demanding careers with unwieldy obligations. “After we’d dated for a year and a half, the reality was that I couldn’t move around with his assignments  and practice dentistry, and at the time there was no regional or national licensure for military spouses,” Shawna remembers. “I realized ‘I’m going to have to join the military too if we want to be together.’” So she did.

Shawna received an Air Force scholarship through dental school, then a competitive residency in the Air Force. “It ended up being great, because it’s an amazing residency,” she says. “There were lots of specialists around with invaluable experience.”

That certainly isn’t to say that life was easy, or even that their relationship was never long-distance. They continued to date (and even began their marriage) across state lines. Even when they were finally reunited in Shreveport, Louisiana, the birth of their first child with no local support system served as a new challenge. As their family grew, so did their record of homes. They moved to San Antonio, then New Orleans. Stephen’s deployment schedule meant missed milestones, like first words and steps. After returning from one long absence his youngest daughter didn’t even recognize him.

Despite the hardships of being a “dual spouse” military family, Shawna and Stephen both continued to embrace the opportunity to serve their country until 2010 when, with three young children and an impending deployment, Shawna retired from service. She put her time to good use working in a San Antonio practice that catered to special needs children and completed complex cases in a hospital environment. After their next move to New Orleans, she completed a second intensive residency in implant dentistry.

As Stephen transitioned from Active Duty to the Reserves, the family set their sights on crafting a permanent home. They hit on Asheville as a convenient middle ground between Shawna’s native Colorado and Stephen’s Apex, but they soon realized it wasn’t just convenient—it was perfect. “There isn’t a lot to not love about Asheville!” Shawna notes. Stephen chimes in with a laugh, “We just love the beauty of Asheville—and the food, and the beer!”

Asheville wasn’t just the perfect place to plant their family, it also proved to be the best location to invest in a business. “What I saw in those other cities was a real struggle of the business owners to reach the community and to be known,” says Shawna. But here, the Hofferts invested in a truly local business, Red Maple Dental. Picking up the 30 year legacy of Dr. Stephen Miller, Shawna practices dentistry while Stephen is the Office Manager. They say people choose dentists based on their personality as much as their skill, and it’s easy to see why so many patients choose the Hofferts. Their kindness is practically palpable, their devotion to the community unrivaled.

As a member of the Air Force Reserves, Stephen still travels south to Mississippi to teach one week each month. His unique qualifications and experience make him an invaluable asset to the fledgling team of young pilots he mentors. ““He’s really, really good at it and I’m so proud of him,” Shawna smiles.

Here, the Hofferts haven’t just settled—they’ve found home. Asheville, Shawna says, “offers a sense of community: you can take care of others, and they can take care of you.” As devoted veterans, that’s truly what the Hofferts do—they take care of our community, and our country.