Never Lost Courage': Cancer Survior Relates Personal Lessons in Rising above Hardship at Hood Luncheon
By: Kimberly Vetter - Herald Staff Writer
FORT HOOD - Cancer survivor Donna R. Walton believes in turning strength into courage and power.
The 43-year-old amputee lost her leg to bone cancer when she was 18 years old and has fought discrimination against the handicapped ever since.
But a healthy dose of self-esteem and a strong will to succeed has helped Walton overcome prejudice and become everything she can be.
"Although I lost my leg and endured discrimination, I never lost my courage," Walton said to an audience of almost 300 Thursday at the Fort Hood Officers' Club. "I didn't let my challenges in life convince me that I couldn't be great, because I can."
Walton was the keynote speaker Thursday at a Women's History Month celebration sponsored by Fort Hood's Equal Employment Opportunity department.
Titled "Celebrating Women of Courage and Vision," the celebration included a rendition of the song "Wind Beneath My Wings," sung by Wanda Gunther of the post's Operational Test Command, and two women's history presentations given by eighth-grader Sarah Jones and seventh-grader Jenna Pergande.
"This celebration is about women who have driven through life, not stood on the sidelines," Maj. Gen. George Higgins said. "We are proud to have a woman such as this speak to us today."
When Walton took the microphone, she spoke about women of courage who have risen above hardship and made their mark on a world that at one time seemed against them.
"From biblical times to modern times, women of all backgrounds have contributed great things to history," said the Washington, D.C., native. "They have turned strength into courage and the power to persevere."
After mentioning names such as Rosa Parks and Maya Angelou, Walton drifted back to her own story, explaining how she has endured and overcome several types of discrimination, one being discrimination in the workplace.
"The first time I really realized my leg was going to give me a problem was when I was interviewing to be a journalist," she said. "They asked me how I was going to run after a story; I drew a blank. I didn't know what to say."
Today, Walton teaches people how to answer questions like the one she was asked years ago. In addition to motivational speaking, she works with AIDS patients in Washington, D.C., who are seeking employment.
"I teach people that the power to overcome adversity is within themselves," she said. "Everyone has the ability to be great."