BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Naomi Kraima is a transplanted New Yorker, who now lives in South Mississippi. The Air Force veteran is also the mother of three children.
As to why she joined the Air Force, she told us, "I wanted to do something bigger than myself, I wanted to make a difference. I know it sounds corny, but I really did."
In late spring 2003, she found herself in Iraq.
"At first, we were really gung ho, yeah, we are going to go get them. Then the reality hit, and I realized, I was going to leave my kids and go to Iraq. And I don't know if I 'm going to come back," she said.
She almost didn't come back. It was May 13th when the convoy she was in was attacked.
"When I turned around to look back, there was an explosion. Then, all of a sudden, we hear over the radio, ‘Take cover, take cover,'" she remembered. "We had to hurry up and get out of there. And when we did, I hear over the radio there was a casualty. And I saw my friend, Griff, in the back of the Humvee bleeding."
Griff would die of his wounds that day. That was seven years ago, but for Naomi, it feels like yesterday.
"Every day, every day he comes to mind, somehow, some way. Every day."
Naomi was lucky. She made it out of Iraq alive and unharmed. But that attack on her convoy left emotional scars.
"At first, I did not even know what was going on," she explained. "I did not know what was happening to me. I felt like I was hearing booms that did not exist, gunfire. I was angry."
Eventually, she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The therapy she has undergone since then has helped tremendously.
Three years ago, she was medically retired. Now, she works as the Disabled American Veterans' Transition Services Officer, counseling veterans. Sometimes, they are surprised to see this young woman sitting across from them.
"I get the ones that come in here and are like, ‘You just don't understand.' And I tell them, ‘Actually, I do."
She understands because she was there. She saw firsthand the cost of war and the brutality of it. Now, she realizes that being here to counsel vets is the work she was destined to do. She calls it both challenging and rewarding and hopes to be able to do her part to make a difference, for a long time to come.
Friday, August 29 2014 4:50 PM EDT2014-08-29 20:50:26 GMT
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