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Veterans Health Administration

 

Crisis Line Counselor Understands

A woman in a wheelchair is on the telephone at her desk

Kimberly Walters takes a call on the Veterans Crisis Line

by Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer
Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kimberly Walters has Been There

If a Veteran calls the Veterans Crisis Line and gets Kimberly Walters, they will find a patient listener, a Veteran who understands, and someone who has lived long enough — 20 years — with her own personal challenges that she is able to convincingly explain to the caller why she or he should not give up.

She just might recommend skydiving.

That’s just one of the many adventures Army Veteran Kimberly Walters has undertaken to fulfill her personal motto: “If you have pride, ambition and determination, there are no challenges too big to overcome.”

Kimberly has been paralyzed from the chest down for 20 years and knew quickly that she would not let it stop her from living life. She started driving four months after she got out of the hospital and opted for a manual wheelchair instead of a power chair because, “My arms work just fine.”

 People with disabilities are capable of anything. 

She was in the Army for four years and an additional ten months in the reserve. She “gets it” when Veterans call the Crisis Line and want to talk about their problems. “What truly drives me is wanting to motivate others that just because one has a disability doesn’t mean your life is over.”

It’s a motivation and a message that she is ready to share anytime. As a motivational speaker, Kimberly shares her story with audiences around the country. “Why didn’t I quit? I would have been embarrassed knowing that I allowed paralysis to take over my life.”

She has been featured in national magazines including the cover story in Paraplegia News Magazine and has published articles in medical journals describing the challenges a Spinal Cord Injury survivor faces and how she conquered them.

A paralyzed woman skydiving in tandem with a man

Skydiving is just one of Kimberly’s adventures.

When Veterans get Kimberly on the Crisis Line, she may encourage them to set a goal of getting a Gold Medal. She did…a Gold Medalist in racing in the Paralyzed Veterans Wheelchair Olympic Games.

It’s the message she talks about when speaking to groups: “Self empowerment and self-advocacy are the keys for persons with disabilities achieving their goals and living a meaningful and productive life.”

Kimberly achieved a Master of Science degree in Administration Rehabilitation Counseling from San Diego State University in 2011 which she added to her degrees in Sociology and Psychology from the State University of New York.

She relates to Veterans trying to understand the trauma of their injuries. In one of her articles titled “Various Roles Assistive Technology has had During My Lifetime,” she explains: “Within seconds, I went from an extremely independent, self-sufficient woman to one who was not only fighting for her life, but who had lost complete independence.”

That background, that experience, enables Kimberly to listen and to understand. And then to offer advice and counseling that helps Veterans deal with their crises and to remember, in her words, that “People with disabilities are capable of anything.”