Blinded Veterans and BVA Recognized on March 28
State and local government proclamations, meetings with government officials, luncheons, television news spots, and special walks all commemorated National Blinded Veterans Day and the founding of the Blinded Veterans Association on March 28, 1945.
Late last year, National Secretary Paul Mimms became personally motivated by Public Law 111-156, enacted in 2010 by the 111th Congress with two resolutions that designated March 28 as National Blinded Veterans Day. He began petitioning BVA’s regional groups and VA blind rehabilitation personnel to recognize the day in 2017. He then offered a number of suggestions.
The response surpassed even Paul’s hopes and expectations.
Governor Nathan Deal, center, displays state proclamation designating March 28 as Blinded Veterans Day in Georgia. Governor Deal is flanked, left to right, by Cory Keith, John Gutman, Jesse Jones, Johnnie Busch, Norman Jones, and Dennis Darnes. Photo courtesy of Governor Nathan Deal.
“Our regional groups, even on a limited basis in some cases, got together and made things happen to honor blinded veterans and BVA,” he said. “It’s a testament to what we can do when there is a cause for which we can work and pitch in.”
Examples include 31 total proclamations in the area covered by the Greater Houston Group alone, and governors’ proclamations in Idaho, Georgia, and Florida.
Longtime VIST Coordinator Evelyn Cabrera-Heatwole assisted the Richmond Chapter of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Group in organizing a heavily publicized white cane walk outside the Medical Center following a public reading of the 2010 national proclamation in the hospital cafeteria. Because of heavy rain outdoors, the group of 14 blinded veterans navigated a second floor loop above a mall area within the hospital. The unveiling of a BVA birthday cake occurred following the walk. Medical Center Director John A. Brandecker remained for the entire event and walked with Evelyn, who is totally blind herself.
Three members of the Emerald Coast Regional Group, Darryl Goldsmith, Paul Kaufman, and Rain Rich, were each highlighted in a television news segment that same day on WEAR-TV-3 in Pensacola, Florida. The segment, headlined “Blinded Veterans Find Friendship and Purpose in Local Support Group,” hailed BVA and VA rehabilitation programs as lifesavers that served as a second family to them following their sight loss. Florida Governor Rick Scott also issued an official proclamation making March 28 Blinded Veterans Day in his state.
Soon after the leadership of the Georgia Regional Group requested a proclamation from the Office of Governor Nathan Deal and received word that it would indeed be issued, group President Jesse Jones pursued a meeting with the Governor in which the proclamation would be formally presented to the group. Governor Deal took the time to meet with six members of the group in his office on the morning of March 28.
Both the Arizona-Central/Northern Regional Group and BVA of Wisconsin held special group events in conjunction with the day. Wisconsin President John Carter sent the following account of his group’s event:
BVA of Wisconsin held its Blinded Veterans Day celebration on March 28 at American Legion Post 434 with a luncheon. Post 434 is located in the City of Oak Creek. Present were 47 members and their guests, blind organization representatives, and family and friends. The Oak Creek Lions, American Legion Post 434, the Sons of the American Legion, and the American Legion Auxiliary volunteered to oversee preparation and the serving of the meal, which was financed with the group’s own funds.
The meal was attended by all but one of the officers of the group. Secretary Gary Traynor traveled more than 300 miles one way to be present.
Special guests included the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind, Executive Director of ABLE (Audio Braille Literacy Enhancement), and the Director of the Milwaukee Library for the Blind. The Zablocki VA Medical Center was represented by Assistant Director James McLain. Three of Wisconsin’s county service officers were also present. Milwaukee VIST Coordinator Leon Haith, a 50-year employee of VA, provided a bus to transport BVA members from the Medical Center.
Our guest speaker was retired Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Zimmerman, the newly appointed VA Secretary for the State of Wisconsin. His presentation encouraged continued collaboration of Veterans Service Organizations with government agencies that work for veterans.
Blinded veteran James Jackson, front left, takes on much heralded VA Medical Center walk with companionship of VA volunteer Bill McCracken.
The event concluded with a 12-minute video of a portion of the First Annual VIPER Ride co-sponsored by BVA of Wisconsin last August when 39 blinded veterans spent the day motorcycling on Southeastern Wisconsin county roads.