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Ken Horn: Rising to New Challenges through Operation Peer Support

When Lieutenant Colonel Kennan “Ken” Horn (Ret.) was first nominated in January 2017 to receive the most prestigious annual award of the Blinded Veterans Association, he knew next to nothing about the award and perhaps even less about a group of veterans he would soon thereafter champion and with whom he would become a significant player.

Nor did the native Oklahoman realize that he had come upon an organization and friends with whom he could rise to new challenges and continue living his passion—that of spending time with other veterans.    

Shortly after being recognized by BVA three years ago, Ken learned that the Major General Melvin J. Maas Award for Professional Achievement is an honor named for an extraordinary veteran of World War I who was also a former member of the United States Congress from Minnesota and a Major General in the Marine Corps Reserves during World War II. Maas became totally blind in 1951, joined BVA shortly thereafter, and became an influential leader in the organization during the 1950s and early 60s.

Ken learned that the award is presented annually to the blinded veteran who had, above all other candidates, successfully risen to the challenge in professional pursuits despite being legally blind. 

In large part, Ken’s award stemmed from his work at the time at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) during 2014-17. Responding to a job posting for a Manager of Veteran Student Support in 2014 to help student veterans access their benefits, he was the first ever to hold the position. At the end of his tenure at UCO, the office and the university had received national recognition for their outstanding service to the school’s veteran population.   

Using his years of experience as both a role model and a true friend, Ken is once again rising to a new challenge. He brings the same perseverance and drive as chairman of an organizational committee that oversees a BVA initiative known as Operation Peer Support.

The beneficiaries of this rare combination of personal qualities are BVA as an organization and the individual veterans for whom he is trying to make life better as they adjust to the challenges of legal blindness. Most of the veterans are considerably younger than he, something which he is more than accustomed to after dozens of years of service with younger men and women in both the Army and at UCO.

The Operation Peer Support activities Ken oversees include adaptive sports and recreation, educational opportunities and resources, and endeavors that help more recently blinded veterans better care for their own well-being and regain their independence, social skills, and self-confidence. He helps them develop a different vision—a vision of their own true potential following the loss of physical sight.

“Ken’s unique qualities as a peer mentor and an exemplary ambassador for BVA are impossible to replicate,” said BVA Executive Director Donald Overton. “He has risen to the challenges in his own life and now motivates others to do the same by fearlessly doing the hard things of life and never giving up.”

BVA’s Operation Peer Support activities have been in a temporary holding pattern during the COVID-19 pandemic but will be revving up again soon! Please help Ken Horn continue to rise to the challenge of lifting his fellow veterans who have recently experienced sight loss.