Veteran Stories of Inspiration: Naomi
In her early twenties, Naomi decided that the life her Hawaiian/Filipino family had long-pressured her to live was no longer suiting her. So she enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
“I grew up on an island, and the ocean was the closest thing to being home. The Navy made me feel like I was home no matter where I was.”
After years of service and increasing rank, Naomi was hospitalized with an inconclusive virus that attacked her immune system and heart. Swollen joints, pain, and even anaphylactic shock became commonplace, and one day, she woke up unexpectedly paralyzed from the waist down.
“Doctors kept telling me I’d never run again.”
“In the last years of my service, I was on cutting table so many times and under so many regimens. I was severely ill and terrified of all of the surgeries.” She underwent 30 procedures and three major surgeries in less than three years.
“New symptoms just kept coming and coming.”
Her last surgery was in 2017, and due to extensive physical therapy—including a program that re-trained Naomi to use her brain to control her muscles—Naomi regained her strength and immediately began seeking community with other veterans with disabilities.
“I felt like I wasn’t getting to the heart of what was truly keeping me at arm’s length from wholeheartedly interacting with people. To breaking down my walls of why I’m hurt and afraid and hesitant inside. I needed to go find that one thing that made me feel whole again.”
Her No Barriers Warriors Program guided her return to wholehearted living
She continues: “My first expedition opened the doors to an awakening and I have only gotten stronger since. Each expedition gives me the chance to draw two conclusions, if it is life giving or a life lesson. It’s only between the peaks and valleys of the journey where I’m able to distinguish which one of the two I leave with.”
Her desire to serve others hasn’t waned, and she has now made it her personal mission to help other veterans heal in the outdoors. Naomi dedicates her free time to living out her No Barriers program pledge—to help Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)’s HR 2435 bill to get passed. This bipartisan bill aims to help military veterans heal and seek treatment through outdoor recreation and providing them better access to federal lands.
“If I were on my deathbed, I wanted to make sure that everything that I’d done up until that point mattered. If I were to really help to push this bill, I would feel like I did something that mattered.”
“I have learned to look to my inner strength, and that, in itself, has enabled me to excel beyond my own expectations.”
Naomi’s condition will require her to have surgeries for the rest of her life. She thanks No Barriers for equipping her with the skills necessary to maintain physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as pain management and healthy living.