BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It'll be 20 years this November since Donna Anderson started working as a nurse at Keesler Air Force Base.
"I remember asking God that if he gave me this opportunity to be a nurse, my purpose was to serve," Anderson said.
Anderson has taken that mission to serve to the next level. Drawing on her nursing skills, she said she found her calling two years ago when she signed on as program manager of Keesler's Wounded Warrior Program. The program treats and transitions people back into or out of active-duty service. Anderson has helped nearly 200 servicemen and women since the program was established.
Naomi Kraima, an advocate for Disabled American Veterans, is a wounded warrior. She's medically-retired due to post traumatic stress disorder. She said Anderson has been there for many servicemen and women when they need it most.
"She's an angel to them. She really is, to us, I should say," Kraima said.
Kraima now partners with Anderson to help people navigate their way through the Veterans Administration. As she tells it, this isn't a 9 to 5 job for Anderson.
"After, let's say normal business hours, I have to talk to Donna and it's 6 o'clock; I don't call her cell phone, I call her office phone and she's there. It takes a special kind of a person. It has to be in their heart to do something like that," Kraima said.
Anderson speaks just as admirably of Kraima for her willingness to share her experiences to help others heal.
"It's been a great thing to have a person people can identify with that understands," Anderson said. "She's been there. She's done that. I'm a firm believer that you help one another."
It's a message that resonates with people like Senior Airman Frank Tesh, based out of North Carolina. He was diagnosed with cancer while training at Keesler. Having completed his treatment, he temporarily works in Anderson's office.
"From day one, Ms. Anderson and her Wounded Warrior's Program has been by my side. Thankfully, I'm able to help out and give back. It feels good," said Tesh.
Giving to others when they need it most. It's a calling for Anderson now multiplied through the many she's helped who are now helping others.
Nationwide, November is set aside as Wounded Warrior's Month. Anderson said Keesler is fortunate to have a Wounded Warrior's program through its hospital. SHe said some bases don't have programs set-up on site.