BVA Leadership, Members Left to Ponder Changes Following 66th National Convention


Altogether numbering some 350 attendees, the 180 blinded veterans and their family members, 42 exhibitors, a couple of dozen presenters, and the Association’s staff took in five days of camaraderie with new and old friends, official business meetings featuring dignitaries and scholars, a bowling night, Las Vegas gaming, Stratosphere jumps, fine dining, motivational and instructional training sessions, and much, much more.

Left to right, BVA’s reliable cadre of volunteers for annual President’s Reception consisted of Wendy Gore, St. George, Utah; Convention Volunteer Coordinator Margarine Beaman; Frances Bautista, 99th Civil Engineer Squad at nearby Nellis Air Force Base; and Air Force Master Sergeant Rudy Moreno, 820th Red Horse Squadron at Nellis.

Left to right, BVA’s reliable cadre of volunteers for annual President’s Reception consisted of Wendy Gore, St. George, Utah;
Convention Volunteer Coordinator Margarine Beaman; Frances Bautista, 99th Civil Engineer Squad at nearby Nellis Air Force Base; and Air Force Master Sergeant Rudy Moreno, 820th Red Horse Squadron at Nellis.


Amid the hustle and bustle of BVA 66th National Convention activity August 16-20, complimented by the scores of non-BVA guests at the immense Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, blinded veterans in a sense stared at a stark reality early in the convention week— that important changes would soon be implemented by virtue of the opinions they expressed and the votes they cast in Las Vegas.

“I have mentioned many times recently that change is a good thing when it brings new experience, new leadership, new goals, and new opportunities,” said outgoing National President Dr. Roy Kekahuna. “This convention most certainly provided us a point from which to launch those changes, which will hopefully make us more proactive as an organization.”

Major changes effected at the convention included two new bylaw resolutions, passed with little or new opposition in both the established Committee and by the full membership during the Closing Business Session. The resolutions provide the National Board of Directors with the authority to set the dues structure and outlined a change in the structure effective January 1, 2012.

As of the Saturday evening Awards Banquet swearing-in of National Officers by Neil Appleby, all but three of the 11 National Board of Director positions have new names next to them. Directors of Districts 1, 3, and 5 represented by David VanLoan, Joe Parker, and Dr. George Stocking, respectively, remained while the following were either elected or appointed to their new positions: Sam Huhn, National President; Mark Cornell, National Vice President; Robert “Dale” Stamper, National Secretary; Roy Young, National Treasurer; Freddie Edwards, Director District 2 (Interim); Robert Mower, Director District 4 (Interim); and Ronald Anderson, Director District 6 (Interim).

Dr. Roy Kekahuna assumed by protocol his new position on the Board as Immediate Past National President. Joe Burns will remain as an Honorary Member of the Board of Directors as a consultant on financial matters.

After 32 years of service as BVA’s National Chaplain, the Reverend Neftali Sanchez turned over the reins to the Reverend Clyde Jackson of Midlothian, Virginia. Charles Davis of Houston, Texas, will serve as the upcoming year’s National Sergeant-at-Arms.

Retiring BVA National Chaplain Neftali Sanchez, right, seated at Father Carroll Luncheon head table with sister Nohemi Marquez. Chaplain Sanchez offered invocations at more than 30 of the traditional Carroll luncheons during his tenure.
Retiring BVA National Chaplain Neftali Sanchez, right, seated at Father Carroll Luncheon head table with sister Nohemi Marquez.
Chaplain Sanchez offered invocations at more than 30 of the traditional Carroll luncheons during his tenure.

Following tributes to retiring Executive Director Tom Miller, a BVA employee for 25 years and the Association’s Executive Director for 17 of those years, incoming National President Sam Huhn introduced Steven Beres as the new Executive Director, effective January 1, 2012. Steve is a service-connected blinded veteran from Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and has most recently served as BVA National Secretary. He comes to BVA following employment at the VA Visual Impairment Services Outpatient Rehabilitation Clinic in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Hosted by the Southern Nevada Regional Group and chaired by National President Kekahuna, the convention, despite all of the change, still featured many of its traditional components.

Now in its sixth year of implementation at a BVA national convention, the Association’s Operation Peer Support initiative brought 12 recently blinded service members, including two from the United Kingdom, and a selected companion to the event. Seven additional participants who had attended a previous convention paid their own way to attend this year.

Operation Peer Support brings together veterans of recent conflicts with those who have lost their sight in Vietnam, Korea, or during World War II. The program’s objective is to provide newly blinded veterans, or service members if they have not yet been discharged, with examples of and opportunities to interact with men and women who have led happy and prosperous lives despite their blindness.

Wednesday’s Opening Business Session included a keynote address by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki and remarks by Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1), Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), and Representative Joe Heck (D-NV-3). The Friday Father Carroll Luncheon audience was favored by an address by Dr. Gregory Goodrich, Supervisory Research Psychologist at the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center in Palo Alto. The Friday Forum had its usual array of lecturers on topics relating to advances in technology and rehabilitation. Convention delegates and other member attendees approved 16 resolutions recommended by the Bylaws and Resolutions Committee.

BVA Southern Arizona Regional Group member Dan Standage, left, accepts prestigious Melvin J. Maas Award from National President Dr. Roy Kekahuna at Convention Awards Banquet August 20.
BVA Southern Arizona Regional Group member Dan Standage, left,
accepts prestigious Melvin J. Maas Award from National President Dr. Roy Kekahuna at Convention Awards Banquet August 20.

Following scheduled activities, some conventioneers found an escape on historic Fremont Street, a canopied four blocks of entertainment and shops just outside the Golden Nugget. Others attended the city’s renowned shows via city buses to The Strip while still others immersed themselves in the hotel casino or ventured off to experience still another new buffet. At some point, the majority flocked to the Aloha Room, where they were greeted by hosts Sam and Anita Ayoob.

Also running concurrently with BVA’s meetings in the Golden Nugget was the first annual Department of Defense-VA Eye Care Conference, planned and organized by the Vision Center of Excellence. Approximately 100 ophthalmologists, optometrists, and vision researchers met to discuss vision injuries, vision technology, and current research. Topics at the conference also centered on improving the tracking and treatment of combat injuries affecting vision. The conference was so much a success that others in the future, also in concert with BVA conventions, are now in the planning stage.

BVA’s 67th National Convention will be held August 21-25 at the San Luis Resort, Spa, & Conference Center in Galveston, Texas. Details are forthcoming in BVA quarterly publication, the BVA Bulletin.