LAKE WALES — Kat Gates-Skipper is quick to say she is a true Marine.

Born on the shores of Tripoli, Libya, in 1957 at Wheelus Air Base, Gate-Skipper’s life has always been influenced by the U.S. military.

Now retired from the Marine Corps, Gates-Skipper, 58, has made it her mission to help veterans.

Her call to action was 18 years ago when she was helping her husband, Charles Skipper, a Vietnam War veteran with two Purple Hearts, collect benefits for his post traumatic stress disorder.

"I went to apply for his VA benefits and what a nightmare that was," Gates-Skipper said. "We were on this backlog for eight years. That’s when I became an veterans’ advocate, to go out there and help others who are not as knowledgeable, not as fortunate to have the contacts that I do."

Gates-Skipper was a speaker in the Defend Freedom Bus Tour that traveled to Pensacola, The Villages and Jacksonville; participated in the Vets on the Hill initiative urging reform of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; and is an active volunteer with the American Legion in Lake Wales.

"She gets the word out that we’re here and that veterans are in need," said Andy Anderson, post commander at American Legion Post 71. "She is a staunch advocate of veterans because she is one and helps any way she can. She helps get them the benefits they are entitled to."

Jimmy Nelson, owner of Nelson Financial…

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