Project Gemini Opens New Doors
It can be easier to cope with a situation if you talk to someone
who shares your unique point of view—and that’s especially important
for blinded veterans. To reach out to other blinded veterans and their
families, six U.S. Armed Forces veterans without sight recently
traveled to the United Kingdom.
Project Gemini, a joint effort of the Blinded Veterans Association
and St Dunstan’s, took the veterans, four of them blinded in recent
combat operations, across the Atlantic Ocean for six days of
educational exchange and the sharing of friendship, knowledge and
insights with their British comrades.
The project obtained its name from the transatlantic
telecommunications cable that stretches from England to the United
States. Project Gemini created an opportunity for blinded veterans to
meet in a relaxed environment and, formally and informally, exchange
ideas and views regarding the best ways to support veterans who have
lost their sight.
Subjects of discussion were rehabilitation and readjustment training, vision research and adaptive technology for the blind.
“During the week, we shared helpful hints about coping with
blindness and the ‘war stories’ that are part of the adjustment
process,” said Tom Zampieri, director of government relations at BVA.
“We compared the British veterans’ health care system with the
American system operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs and its
dozens of component medical centers, outpatient clinics and veterans
homes throughout the country.”
Project Gemini is an outgrowth of Operation Peer Support, a BVA
program begun in 2006 that 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 Iraq and
Afghanistan veterans and their families with examples of and
opportunities to interact with men and women who have led happy and
prosperous lives despite their blindness.