Donavia Walker: The limbless black American cadet inspiring the world 

Donavia Walker: The limbless black American cadet inspiring the world 

Donavia Walker, born limbless and her story is undoubtedly an inspiration to everyone  The 16-year-old Florida native was born with Bilateral Amelia.

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Donavia Walker, born limbless and her story is undoubtedly an inspiration to everyone  The 16-year-old Florida native was born with Bilateral Amelia. This is an extreme rare birth defect marked by the complete absence of one or more limbs. 

Today, Walker is an accomplished Junior Reserve Officer cadet. The national program was sponsored by the United States Armed Forces in high schools and also in some middle schools across the US and United States military bases across the world. The program originally started as part of the National Defense Act of 1916 and later expanded under the 1964 ROTC Vitalization Act.

The young cadet learned to use her feet to do everything from homework, eating, answering her phone to driving since she grew to know her deformities. The limbless cadet who honed her inner creativity to do everyday tasks using her feet with a determination to change her story is now a squad administrator on the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC).

“I remember the first day she entered my office,” Walker’s instructor, Sergeant Major Rudy Carter, US Army retired, said. “I had high hopes for her and she has not let me down.”

“Every morning that I see her walk into my classroom is a day that I realize that when I get up in the morning there is nothing that should limit me or nothing should discourage me,” Walker instructor added. “It’s people like Donavia that give my job value, and make me want to get up and do the best that I can.”

Her mother, Tisa Jones carrying Walker in her womb, her daughter’s condition was hidden from her. She was not told that Walker was limbless. Jones said that felt like a betrayal.

“I felt betrayed, like no one told me anything. “I’m feeling like the person who did the ultrasound should have been aware.”

Walker embraced her condition at a very young age and horned her inner creativity to do everyday tasks using her feet.

“It really didn’t affect her life because the way she does stuff, everything seems natural to her. She taught herself how to draw, she actually can knot other people’s shoes, feeds herself, and also takes herself to the bathroom. I still don’t know how she does it,” Jones said. 

Donavia said people often put her down because they didn’t think she could do “as much as I can”. “They would often tell me, ‘You can’t hold it, you going to need your hands to hold it” or “You can’t get that, you’re going to need your hands to get it”. And I was like, “I can get it with my feet. I will find a way through”.

Focused on graduating high school and consummating her final driving test, Walker said she wants to serve as an inspiration to others; saying: “I would say to anyone with a physical challenge that you should love yourself and find people who make you feel comfortable with yourself.”