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Eye on service: Veteran gives thanks by giving

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Posted at 4:31 PM, Nov 23, 2021

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Dr. Cristian Radaneata is counting his blessings again this Thanksgiving. His life of dedicated service really started at the young age of 15.

That’s when his father made a courageous decision back in 1983. He packed up his family from the Communist unrest in his birthplace in Romania, and moved them to the land of opportunity in the United States.

“We arrived with a couple of suitcases and 600 borrowed dollars,” Radaneata recalled.

Soon after arriving in the US, Radaneata was willing to pay an even higher price in his new country.

He joined the US Navy when he was 17, mostly to help pay for his college education. He served 24 years in the service (mostly in the Navy Reserve), including a combat tour as part of Operation Desert Storm.

Radaneata would eventually get his Doctor of Optometry degree with his sight still focused on service. For the last 25 years, Radaneata has given his free time to his community with monthly clinics.

He first started giving back at Metro Ministries, and then joined Mission of of Mercy, providing free eye care to the uninsured working poor in the Coastal Bend.

“I feel compelled to give back because of all the opportunities I’ve had coming to the United States,” a grateful Radaneata said.

For more than 16 years now, Tania Morris has been trusting her eyes to Radaneata. She also has managed her weight and diabetes.

“There aren't a lot of people these days that care, so when you find people that really care, it motivates you to care, too,” said Morris.

Along with Morris’ children, Radaneata has helped hundreds of patients with vision care.

“I’ve met a lot of patients of people doing this (free clinics) that have come back over the time and said 'Thank you, and you know, you help me get my job,' and it's just something to give back to the community,” said a smiling Radaneata.

It’s that smile, and his love for his patients, that keeps them coming back.

“He talks to the patient one-on-one and asks about their family and how they're doing,” said Mission of Mercy Executive Director Sherry Bowers.

Oh, and Radaneata’s chair-side manner may quite possibly leave you in stitches -- in a good way.

“Dr. Radaneata has a very funny personality,” chuckled Bowers.

“I guess that is fair to say,” quipped Radaneata.

He even has a funny one-liner about his beloved Navy.

“NAVY stands for 'Never Again Volunteer Yourself.' NAVY,” he joked.

Clearly that’s a slogan Radaneata does not live by when he looks back at a life well lived, and his opportunities here in America.

“We’re here to help each other and try to improve each other's lives,” he said. “And this is a small way of doing it.”