Major General Melvin J. Mass Achievement Award


The Major General Melvin J. Maas Achievement Award is the most prestigious award which the BVA presents. This award is presented annually at the Awards Banquet of the BVA National Convention to the veteran, with service-connected blindness, who has proven himself/herself outstanding in his/her field of employment and in his/her adjustment to daily living. The Maas Award was initiated by the late Bayard H. Kendrick, the famous mystery writer and author of Lights Out, the story of a World War II blinded veteran; Major General Melvin J. Maas.

Maas was born in 1898 of Minnesota and later went on to be elected to Congress in 1926 where he would serve until 1944. Maas left congress to serve his country during WWI in the Marine Corps Reserve where he would go on to become Major General and serve throughout WW2 where he was wounded by bomb fragments and left blind. He did not let his disability stop him from serving his country and in turn he became the first active duty blind general. In 1952 Maas retired from the reserves due to his blindness. Being a man of perseverance, he chose to find new ways to serve his country and from 1954-1964 he would serve as the chairman of the President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped. During this time he would also serve as President of BVA and aid in the creation of a positive image of the blind community and their potential. The Major General Melvin J. Maas award seeks to honor an individual who has contributed to the positive image of the blind community set forth so many years ago. Winners of this award are men and women with service connected blindness who have overcome their disability to become independent in their daily living. In honor of Maas, nominations should be individuals who have found success in their employment despite their vision loss and helped other blinded veterans find independence as well. Before his death Maas was quoted in the New York Times stating, “A handicapped person who lives up to his potential leads a more successful life than the so‐called normal person who uses only 50 percent of his capabilities.”

(SINCE 1947)

The Major General Melvin J. Maas Achievement Award is presented annually to the veteran with service-connected blindness who has proven himself/herself outstanding in his/her field of employment and in his/her adjustment to daily living. The veteran nominated must have legal blindness rated as service-connected by the Department of Veterans Affairs or by the service in which the veteran served

Major General Melvin J. Maas was a Marine General who was an early president of the Blinded Veterans Association. From the beginning, presentation of the award has contributed to the enhancement of a positive image of blind people and to the elimination of the concept of helplessness.

            1947 Leonard Shelhamer
            1948 Thomas C. Atkeson
            1949 Orlando A. Milano
            1950 Paul R. Grant
            1951 Hilliard F. Kirby
            1952 Jesse S. Castillo
            1953 Russell C. Williams
            1954 Charles A. Boswell
            1955 Criss Cole
            1956 James L. Womack
            1957 Welker O. Shue
            1958 Vincent L. Lopez
            1959 Thomas J. Kennedy, Jr.
            1960 Walter F. Stromer
            1961 Hez J. Bussey
            1962 H. Smith Shumway
            1963 Bob Cowley Riley
            1964 John E. Hodgin
            1965 Thomas C. Hasbrook
            1966 Orlando A. Milano
            1967 Richard C. Nooe
            1968 Paul Duke
            1969 George E. Stocking
            1970 Donald H. Wedewer
            1971 Thomas A. Dargie
            1972 Michael A. Naranjo, Jr.
            1973 John Amaniera, Jr.
            1974 Salvatore D'Amico
            1975 Michael W. Johnson
            1976 E. Sid Allen
            1977 Irvin P. Schloss
            1978 Charles A. Boswell
            1979 George M. Gillispie
            1980 Dennis R. Wyant
            1981 George Woody Stafford
            1982 Jerry R. Monroe
            1983 Ronald L. Miller
            1984 Ellsworth L. Sharpe
            1985 William W. Thompson
            1986 Clayton E. Simons, Sr.
            1987 Joe W. Burns
            1988 Robert A. Bottenberg
            1989 Buddy B. Spivey
            1990 J. Dennis Cadigan
            1991 Don E. Garner
            1992 Stephen C. Maguire
            1993 Carl L. Kirksey
            1994 William H. Fullerton, Jr.
            1995 Ernie Flynn
            1996 Michael D. Burton
            1997 Elizabeth R. Carr
            1998 David M. Szumowski
            1999 Dennis M. Lewis
            2000 Clifford D. Phillips
            2001 Vito DeSantis
            2002 Wilbert Vandenbos
            2003 Dr. Sidney Ordway
            2004 Reverend Robert "Dale" Stamper
            2005 George Brummell
            2006 Randolph H. Greene
            2007 Peter Link
            2008 Roy E. Young
            2009 Dr. Roy Kekahuna
            2010 Loyal Eugene Apple
            2011 Dan Standage
            2012 Thomas L. Hicks
            2013 Joe Parker
            2014 Paul Mimms
            2015 James Hogan
            2016 Guadalupe (Walley) Guerra