National Officers

Picture of Tom Zampieri

Dr. Thomas Zampieri – National President
Email: t.zampieri@hotmail.com
Phone: (301) 204-3291

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Dr. Thomas Zampieri served three years of active duty as an Army Medic from 1972 to 1975. He retired as an Army Major from the National Guard after 22 years of service in August 2000, having worked as a military flight surgeon for 13 years. Dr. Zampieri graduated from Hahnemann Medical University Physician Assistant Program in June 1978 and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from State University of New York. He received a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, in May 2003 and completed his Political Science Ph.D. with Lacrosse University in December 2005.

For 25 years, Dr. Zampieri worked in a variety of clinical settings as a Physician Assistant in private practice, university medical centers, and for the Department Veterans Affairs in three different VA Medical Centers. He co-authored medical journal research articles and presented medical lectures nationally, including three national medical teleconferences. He served in various leadership roles and on various committees in the Physician Assistant field, resulting in extensive work on Capitol Hill over the years.

From 1988 to 1993, Dr, Zampieri was a member of the Federal Services Task Force in the American Academy of Physician Assistants. In May of 2000 he was honored as the Federal Physician Assistant of the Year by the Academy.

Legally blind due to Retinitis Pigmentosa and medically retired from VA since 2001, Dr. Zampieri was serving as the secretary of the BVA Greater Houston Regional Group when he was hired to be the Director of Government Relations at BVA National Headquarters. He served in the position from April 25, 2005 until November 22, 2013. Known for his tenacity and passion in the position, Dr. Zampieri was instrumental in the growth of BVA’s Operation Peer Support and Project Gemini British Exchange initiatives. Dr. Zampieri, his wife Ginger, and daughter Jazmin now reside in Pearland, Texas.

Photo of Joe McNeil

Joseph D. McNeil, Sr. – National Vice President
Email: josephdmcneil@gmail.com
Phone: (706) 570-1210

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Joseph D. McNeil, Sr., Georgia Regional Group, was born in 1958 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-Westside. He was the oldest of seven brothers and sisters and the first in his family to graduate from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and a Master’s Degree in Human Resources.

After graduating from high school, Mr. McNeil joined the Army National Guard and worked his way through college, joining the Army ROTC program. Upon graduation, he received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Field Artillery. His duty assignments included 2nd Infantry Division Korea, 42nd FA Brigade, V Corps G3 Operations Germany, 197th Infantry Brigade Fort Benning and 18th Airborne Corps Fort Bragg. He held numerous staff jobs during his tenure. Upon his diagnosis in October 1989 of Retinitis Pigmentosa, he was processed off of active duty as a Captain after which he re-enlisted in the Georgia Army National Guard and served for four years before his vision prevented him from doing his assigned duties as Personnel Staff Noncommissioned Officer.

Mr. McNeil is a multi-graduate of three different blind centers. He joined the Blinded Veterans Association in 2005 and has held the position of Georgia Regional Group vice president. He was president of the Columbus Chapter of the group from 2005 to 2007 and simultaneously the Georgia Regional Group secretary. He was the Georgia Regional Group President from 2007 until 2015. In 2015 he was elected BVA National Treasurer, serving until 2017. He then served a term as Secretary during 2017-19 and will now serve as the organization’s National Vice President until 2021.

Since his professional retirement, Mr. McNeil has become an accomplished entrepreneur, father of six, and grandfather of four. He serves his community by sitting on numerous boards representing the blind community as an ambassador, especially for blinded veterans and their capabilities. He has membership in multiple service and civic organizations and is a certified National Veterans Service Officer (NVSO) for BVA.

Some favorite mottoes one may hear from Mr. McNeil include: “Information is Knowledge, Knowledge is Power, and Power Wielded properly is an awesome Weapon,” and “Perception is not Reality.” You can find him speaking to civic groups and churches about blindness and the help that is available to those with vision loss.

Danny Wallace, National Secretary

Danny Wallace – National Secretary
Email: ret1sgwallace@yahoo.com
Phone: (636) 266-1550

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MILITARY HISTORY

First Sergeant (ret) Daniel L. Wallace joined the Army as an infantryman and attended one stop training to include basic airborne school at Ft. Benning Georgia in 1985.

His assignments include tours with 2-325th AIR, Ft. Bragg, NC; 1-508th Ft. Kobbe, Panama; 5th RTB Dahlonega, GA: 1-508th Ft. Kobbe, Panama; 6th RTB Elgin AFB, FL; 1-502th Ft. Campbell, KY; ROTC instructor Montana State University Bozeman, MT; 1-187th Ft. Campbell, KY. He has deployed twice to the Sinai (MFO duty), twice to Honduras, and once to Iraq (OIF I).

He has served as a Rifleman, RTO, Team Leader, Squad Leader, Ranger Instructor, Platoon Sergeant, Company Executive Officer, ROTC Instructor, and Company First Sergeant.

EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE

Mr. Wallace holds an Associate Degree in Sociology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. He is a graduate of the Primary, Basic, and Advanced Non-Commissioned Officer Courses, and The U.S. Army Instructor Trainers Course. Other courses include the Infantry basic course, Basic Airborne, Jump Master, Ranger, Pathfinder, Air Assault, and Sniper.

Mr. Wallace was wounded by a suicide car bomb attack in Tel Al Far Iraq on Dec 9th 2003 after multiple surgeries he retired in Dec 2005 with over 20 years of service. He currently volunteers as a peer mentor for fellow veterans and has been an active member of the Blinded Veterans Association for 7 years. During his time with the BVA he has served as the National Sergeant at Arms, the National Treasurer and he has chaired numerous committees. Mr. Wallace has made many trips to Capital Hill to advocate for vision research and fight for the rights for his fellow Blinded Veterans. He has many military awards including; Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal (3 Oak Leaf Cluster’s), Army Commendation Medal (3 Oak Leaf Cluster’s), and several others.

Elizabeth Holmes – National Treasurer
Email: bebcol773@gmail.com
Phone: (706) 615-3346

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Ms. Holmes has been an active member of the Georgia Regional Group Columbus Chapter since September 2015. In November 2015, she was appointed chapter secretary. In January 2016, the regional group president asked if she would be willing to serve as the secretary of the entire body, which she gladly accepted and has not relinquished, even with her election as National Treasurer.

Ms. Holmes began assisting in successful state conventions beginning in 2016. She is one to voice her opinion and is always willing to help in proofreading written matter dealing with the regional group. She has also recorded and submitted state convention requirements in a timely manner. She has many attributes that have resulted in the success of the Georgia Regional Group.

In the chapter setting, Ms. Holmes organized the chapter members to participate in the March of Dimes Walk in 2016. She has been an independent participant in the walk herself since 2005. To bring community awareness to the Columbus Chapter, she asked its members if they would support her. In 2017, the Columbus Chapter then walked as a team. In 2018, with even greater participation, the March of Dimes presented the group with a plaque for its $1,350 donation. To date, the Chapter has raised some $3,500 for the March of Dimes. Ms. Holmes has made herself available and accessible to all regional group members. She keeps three other chapter secretaries abreast of their duties as well. This attention includes one-on-one training in needed areas. While attending the Blind Rehabilitation Center in Birmingham, Alabama, she recruited eight new members.

Ms. Holmes was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Ordnance specialty in 1976. She holds the record for the largest number of firsts: she was the first female to be commissioned in the Chicago area, she was first in her university, and she was among the first group of women to attend summer camp at Fort Riley, Kansas, in 1975.

Liz’s first duty assignment was at Fort Bliss, Texas, where she worked as the Assistant Battalion Maintenance Officer (S4) and as the company’s Executive Officer. She later became the Transportation Officer for the 2/52 ADA Battalion, a mobile missile company. In 1979, she became the Shop Officer in Korea for the 595th Maintenance Company. Her position included travel throughout Korea visiting supported units.

In 1981, Ms. Holmes was assigned as the S4 Officer in the 701st Ordnance Battalion and later joined the Division Material Management Center (DMMC) until her reassignment to the General Staff in Frankfurt, Germany. In 1986, Ms. Holmes was assigned to Foreign Science Technology System (FSTS).

Ms. Holmes attended both the Basic and Advance Ordnance Course and Airborne School during her Army career. She retired from the U.S. Postal Service in 2014 due to her loss of sight. During her tenure as a postal worker, however, she worked in nearly every craft. She was a member of four different unions, representing each craft with which she worked. While a member of the American Postal Workers Union, she held the position of secretary for three years and that of State Coordinator for the Post Officer Women for Equal Rights (POWER), representing Georgia at national conventions.

Retired with 36 years and one month of federal service, Ms. Holmes is a widow with two grown children: Bianca, a registered nurse, and Benjamin, a Mechanical Engineer. She has one grandchild, Scarlett. She is on the Mayor’s Commission for People with Disability Executive Board and attends monthly meetings advocating awareness for the disabled. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Studies and a Master’s Degree in Human Relations at DePaul University.

While in Germany, Ms. Holmes became a member of the Masonic Family, holding a position in five Auxiliary houses. As a hobby, she crochets blankets and other items that can be used as gifts. She has donated blankets to the Blinded Veterans Association’s Silent Auction for the past three years. She also has enrolled in the Hadley School for the Blind to refresh herself in Spanish conversation and will be taking Excel and Braille courses in the near further.

Ms. Holmes has been a member of the National Society of Pershing Rifles since 1975 a membership she proudly shares with General Colin Powell.

District Directors

Dennis O’Connell
Email: navy1vet@optonline.net
Phone: (516) 328-

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New York Regional Group, Director of District 1 – was elected to his current post in July 2015. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1948, he enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve 1967. Following basic training he attended reserve meetings, worked, and continued his college education at St. John’s University.

In October of 1969 Dennis began two years of active duty, attending a Class A Quartermaster School and engaging in UniTas XI War Games with the South American Navies. Shortly thereafter, he was deployed to Cuba’s south shore where Russia was starting to build a nuclear submarine base. Several weeks went by before the United States forced Russia to dismantle the base and the force could return home.

In May of 1971 Dennis was told that he was not hearing some orders and was sent over to the base hospital. When the hospital detected hearing loss, he was medivacked to Philadelphia Naval Hospital, where he was diagnosed with bilateral hearing lost. Upon leaving the hospital he learned also that something was wrong with his vision. He was then honorably discharged from the Navy with service connection for his hearing but no service connection for vision.

A month following his marriage to Marilyn Skalicky in August of 1974, Dennis was steering a boat at night when his father noticed that he did not see a bridge. During the months that followed, he went to several eye specialists who gave him a diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa. Two years later he was also diagnosed with Macular Degeneration.

Dennis worked in Western Electric’s Accounting Department while continuing his education at Pace College at night. He graduated in 1980. His son, Dennis, was born in 1977 and daughter, Meghan, in 1980. Because the worsening of his vision he was forced to go on disability in July of 1981 and, as he puts it, became the original Mr. Mom.

From 1988 until 1995 Dennis accumulated more than 1,750 hours as a volunteer at the St. Albans VA Extended Care Center. He learned about the Blinded Veterans Association in 1987 and joined the organization immediately as a member of the New York Regional Group. He attended the Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center in 1993 for ten weeks and returned to receive “JAWS for DOS” computer training in 1994.

In 1996 Gerard McDonnell, Past National President and president of the New York Regional Group at the time, asked Dennis to reconstruct a regional group newsletter that had been dormant for several years. He agreed, beginning with one issue per year at first and then expanding to the current four times a year. The newsletter has continued uninterrupted ever since.

In 1998 Dennis was elected to the office of secretary of the regional group, serving for two years. He then did the same in the positions of vice president and president. When then president Fred Knapp became ill in early 2011, Dennis filled in as interim president and was later re-elected for two additional terms consecutively. He was the Chairman of the BVA 61st National Convention in Buffalo, New York, in 2006.
Dennis served as the Veteran Integrated Service Network 3 representative for BVA, allowing him the opportunity to speak on behalf of blinded veterans before the CARES Commission. In 2005 he was appointed by Governor George Pataki to serve for a three-year term on the State Rehabilitation Council and was later re-elected to serve an additional three-year term.

For his noteworthy service to his regional group and BVA generally Dennis received the Irving Diener Award at the BVA 65th National Convention in Arlington, Virginia, on August 28, 2010.

New York Regional Group, Director of District 1 – was elected to his current post in July 2015. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1948, he enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve 1967. Following basic training he attended reserve meetings, worked, and continued his college education at St. John’s University.

In October of 1969 Dennis began two years of active duty, attending a Class A Quartermaster School and engaging in UniTas XI War Games with the South American Navies. Shortly thereafter, he was deployed to Cuba’s south shore where Russia was starting to build a nuclear submarine base. Several weeks went by before the United States forced Russia to dismantle the base and the force could return home.

In May of 1971 Dennis was told that he was not hearing some orders and was sent over to the base hospital. When the hospital detected hearing loss, he was medivacked to Philadelphia Naval Hospital, where he was diagnosed with bilateral hearing lost. Upon leaving the hospital he learned also that something was wrong with his vision. He was then honorably discharged from the Navy with service connection for his hearing but no service connection for vision.

A month following his marriage to Marilyn Skalicky in August of 1974, Dennis was steering a boat at night when his father noticed that he did not see a bridge. During the months that followed, he went to several eye specialists who gave him a diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa. Two years later he was also diagnosed with Macular Degeneration.

Dennis worked in Western Electric’s Accounting Department while continuing his education at Pace College at night. He graduated in 1980. His son, Dennis, was born in 1977 and daughter, Meghan, in 1980. Because the worsening of his vision he was forced to go on disability in July of 1981 and, as he puts it, became the original Mr. Mom.

From 1988 until 1995 Dennis accumulated more than 1,750 hours as a volunteer at the St. Albans VA Extended Care Center. He learned about the Blinded Veterans Association in 1987 and joined the organization immediately as a member of the New York Regional Group. He attended the Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center in 1993 for ten weeks and returned to receive “JAWS for DOS” computer training in 1994.

In 1996 Gerard McDonnell, Past National President and president of the New York Regional Group at the time, asked Dennis to reconstruct a regional group newsletter that had been dormant for several years. He agreed, beginning with one issue per year at first and then expanding to the current four times a year. The newsletter has continued uninterrupted ever since.

In 1998 Dennis was elected to the office of secretary of the regional group, serving for two years. He then did the same in the positions of vice president and president. When then president Fred Knapp became ill in early 2011, Dennis filled in as interim president and was later re-elected for two additional terms consecutively. He was the Chairman of the BVA 61st National Convention in Buffalo, New York, in 2006.
Dennis served as the Veteran Integrated Service Network 3 representative for BVA, allowing him the opportunity to speak on behalf of blinded veterans before the CARES Commission. In 2005 he was appointed by Governor George Pataki to serve for a three-year term on the State Rehabilitation Council and was later re-elected to serve an additional three-year term.

For his noteworthy service to his regional group and BVA generally Dennis received the Irving Diener Award at the BVA 65th National Convention in Arlington, Virginia, on August 28, 2010.

Timothy Hornick
Email: timothy.hornick@gmail.com
Phone: (785) 330-3503

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OVERVIEW
Mr. Timothy Hornik is a medically retired Army officer, Licensed Masters of Social Work (LMSW), and Certified Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist (CATIS). He is the founder and CEO of Blind Not Alone LLC, Blinded Veterans Association’s Director of District 2 and member of the National Board of Directors, podcaster, and assists Aira with their Veterans Affairs integration efforts. He regularly conducts public speaking engagements, guest lectures, and presents at professional to private events throughout the country. Through these roles Timothy advocates and empowers individuals with disabilities and their support networks to forge new pathways in life.

MILITARY HISTORY
Mr. Timothy Hornik is a medically retired Army officer, Licensed Masters of Social Work (LMSW), and Certified Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist (CATIS). He is the founder and CEO of Blind Not Alone LLC, Blinded Veterans Association’s Director of District 2 and member of the National Board of Directors, podcaster, and assists Aira with their Veterans Affairs integration efforts. He regularly conducts public speaking engagements, guest lectures, and presents at professional to private events throughout the country. Through these roles Timothy advocates and empowers individuals with disabilities and their support networks to forge new pathways in life.

EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE
Mr. Hornik attended Viterbo University in La Crosse, WI, on a 4 year Army ROTC scholarship. He graduated in August 2002 with a Bachelor in Liberal Studies, while pursuing Army ROTC requirements from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. After graduation, he attended the Aird Defense officer training course at Fort Bliss, learning the fundamentals of leadership and the military decision making process. In 2010 he returned to academia through the Masters in Social Work program at the University of Kansas, focusing on disability advocacy and medical social work. The MSW education played a crucial transitioning role by enabling him to integrate civilian, military, and blindness identities. The transformative themes from these experiences forms the basis for his professional, academic, and personal endeavors.

AWARDS AND DISTINCTIONS
Mr. Hornik earned military and civilian recognition for excellence. His military awards includes the Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Purple Heart for injuries sustained, Army Accommodation Medal with Valor for actions in combat, campaign ribbons for service in Iraq and Korea, Combat Action Badge, and many other awards. During his civilian life, he received the KU MSW Margo Award for clinical practice, the KU Wounded Warrior Scholarship for his PhD pursuits, inducted into the inaugural UW La Crosse ROTC Hall of Fame, and nominated by UW La Crosse for the US Army ROTC Hall of Fame.

 

Monaca Gilmore
Email: pettisgilmore@yahoo.com
Phone:  (252) 822-3486

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Accomplishments Within the BVA
District 3 Director
Women’s Veteran Group, Chairman
Former Chairman, Operations Peer Support
Former, Sergeant of Arms

As a Sergeant in the United States Army, Monaca Gilmore served in the military from 2000-2015. Her military occupational specialty was an 88M, transportation instructor, state-side and a 3rd Country National Escort, gunner, in Iraq. She completed a deployment in Iraq from 2005-2006 in which she was injured by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that caused a traumatic brain injury and blindness. As a retired veteran, she continues to be very impactful nationwide bringing awareness to veterans and their families of the services of the Blinded Veterans Association and the Department of Veteran Affairs. Ms. Gilmore is currently the District Director 3 for the Blinded Veterans Association, Chairman of their Operation Peer Support Committee, and Committee Member of the BVA Women’s Group. She enjoys motivational speaking, singing, adaptive sports such as kayaking, golfing, tandem cycling, snow skiing, hiking, and scuba diving. With a Bachelor’s of Science in Healthcare Administration, Ms. Gilmore uses her expertise to advocate for the health and welfare needs of the blinded and visually impaired communities.

 

Waya “Rae” Hail
Email: waya@pacifier.com
Phone: (509) 423-

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Waya “Rae” Hail was born and raised in Hood River Valley along the Columbia River in the State of Oregon. He
enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1964. During his first tour of duty lasting 13 months, he served
with the 4th Marines in Operation Starlite, the first major purely American offensive military action in
Vietnam. The battle occurred in August of 1965.
The U.S. lost 50 brave Marines while 160 were wounded. More than 700 North Vietnamese Regulars were
killed. The area would later be known as Chu Lai although most of the battle occurred further inland.
Following his first tour, Rae was sent to Morocco, North Africa, where he served as Training Platoon Sergeant.
He worked specifically with trained Moroccan Marines in infantry tactics. Rae then returned to Vietnam,
where he was wounded while serving as Platoon Sergeant and acting Platoon Leader in 1970. After nine
months of recovery, he rejoined Civilian Life. He found that no one wanted to hire a Vietnam veteran,
especially an infantry veteran, except for those in law enforcement. He then served as a police officer, working
through the ranks to chief. At age 38, he failed his annual certification physical examination for failing eyesight
due to injuries in Vietnam and additional wounds inflicted while he was a police officer.
Soon after his tenure with the police, Rae graduated from Portland State University with degrees in
Administration of Justice and Architecture. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He also graduated from the
American Lake Blind Rehabilitation Center and is a four-time guide dog school graduate.
Following forced retirement and additional rehabilitation, Rae has since volunteered much of his time to the
Boy Scouts of America throughout the northwest and Pacific Rim. His other hobbies include spending time
with his wife Patti, international scuba diving, RV’ing, and travel in general. He has served as a commander for
the American Legion and has been a regional group president, treasurer, volunteer service officer, special
interest group team member for guide and service dog handlers, and formerly Director of District 4.
Rae has stated that he is honored by the opportunity to again serve his fellow blinded and visually impaired
veterans residing in District 4.

 

Darryl Goldsmith
Email: blindmarinevet@gmail.com
Phone: (850) 554-7819

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Darryl Goldsmith joined the United States Marine Corps at the age of 17 after graduating from high school in Canton, Michigan in 1979. He was injured during nuclear, biological, and chemical training due to an equipment failure that injured his eyes and caused his medical discharge.

Darryl worked for the U.S. Postal Service until his injury claimed his sight completely. He had one eye enucleated. He attended the Michigan Commission of the Blind rehabilitation program, where he learned about VA benefits and then went for VA rehabilitation training at the Central Blind Rehabilitation Center at Hines. He learned communication, computer, orientation and mobility, and cooking skills. He then attended the Columbus, Ohio Pilot Dog School and met his first guide dog.

Upon learning of the Blinded Veterans Association, Darryl helped organize and became a charter member of the Michigan Regional Group. He also initiated a volunteer office in the Detroit VA Medical Center while serving as the regional group Secretary. Laster, he was elected President of the group. More recently he established the Emerald Coast Regional Group in and around the Florida panhandle.

Darryl is a sports and recreation enthusiast. His activities include deep-sea fishing, rock climbing, Tai Chi, kayaking, deer and turkey hunting, and downhill skiing. He is a certified SCUBA diver, one of the few blind divers in the world. He is currently learning how to play the guitar.

Darryl is a BVA national volunteer Veteran Service Officer at the Pensacola VA Outpatient Clinic and the Biloxi Blind Rehabilitation Center, where he holds monthly group meetings to encourage newly blinded veterans and motivate them to realize there is life after blindness.

 

Kevin M. Jackson Sr.
Email: kmjacksonsr@att.net
Phone: (512) 431-8471

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Kevin M. Jackson graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana in 1982 where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. He entered the US Marine Corps in 1977 and served 1978 and 1979 on Active Duty. Upon discharge from Active Duty, Kevin served with various US Marine Corps Reserve Units. He was activated in January of 1991 to serve with 1st Marine Force Service Support Group in support of 1st Marine Division. While in Kuwait, he sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury as well as losing his left eye and being blinded in his right eye as a result of working with faulty Saudi Arabian equipment. Kevin received his Honorable Discharge in April of 1995.

Kevin joined Cadillac Motor Car Division in 1982 and served as a Service Engineer for chassis systems and also served as a District Service Manager. Upon his return from participating in Operation Desert Shield/Storm, he joined the Service Technology Group of GM where he was an Automotive Instructor. He last served with the Customer An Relations Services Group of GM. Kevin is retired from GM having served 24 years.

Kevin also participates in a variety of volunteer activities. Including volunteering at the Austin VA Outpatient Clinic as well as the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center, which is the State of Texas Blind Rehabilitation Center for Adults. He also volunteers with the City of Austin, mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities as well as the Texas Workforce Commissions, Purchasing from People with Disabilities Advisory Committee.

Kevin joined the Blinded Veterans Association in 1991 and is also a member of the Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

 

Non-Voting Members

Dr. Ron Lester

Dr. Ron Lester – National Chaplain
Email: ronlester45@gmail.com
Phone: 520-247-8979

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Dr. Ron Lester was born and raised in southern Oklahoma. He proudly served in the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1968, spending one year in Vietnam. He is a disabled veteran with retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary eye disease resulting in total blindness. Despite this challenge, Dr. Lester earned a bachelor’s degree in business, a master’s degree in elementary education, and a doctoral degree in educational administration. He has trained with concentrations in pastoral administration and financial counseling. Dr. Lester is an ordained minister and a member of the National Fellowship of Chaplains. He currently serves as chaplain for the Disabled American Veterans National Blind Chapter No. 1 and the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) nationally, providing updates for the Chaplain’s Corner of the DAV newsletter, composing the Chaplain’s Corner for the BVA Bulletin, personally contacting veterans who are ill, and checking in on other veterans who need encouragement. He served four years as a volunteer service officer with BVA, assisting veterans with filing disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs.Dr. Lester hosts an online radio program, Special Needs Watch, on bpnradio.com each Thursday, during
which he interviews special guests from throughout the United States. He also shares a Sunday sermon each week on the same network. Prior to moving to Tucson in 2006, Dr. Lester was pastor and overseer of a church and Christian school in Gardena, California. He has more than 45 years of combined experience in pastoring churches, establishing bus ministry and Christian education programs, and acting as principal and administrator in successful Christian schools. He has ministered in the pulpit and assisted with church building in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Philippines, and Mexico.Dr. Lester is the author of two books about his life and experience losing his vision. The first, I’m Blind: What’s Your Excuse, was published in May 2014 (ISBN-10: 1629525634). The second, The Day the Lights Went Out, was published in January 2015 (ISBN-10: 1498422780). Both books were published by Xulon Press and are available on Amazon. Dr. Lester is currently working on his next book about what it means to have grit when facing life’s challenges.Dr. Lester has been married to his wife, Betty, for more than 50 years. He is the proud father of two sons and grandfather of eight. He enjoys tandem
biking with his son, Rob. The two of them are together restoring a 1965 Ford Mustang.

 

Picture of Male Silhouette

Kennan Horn – Sergeant-At-Arms
Email: kennanhorn@yahoo.com
Phone: 405-651-5071

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For much of his 24-year Army career that included operational assignments in Air Defense Artillery and Airborne Joint Readiness, Lieutenant Colonel Kennan “Ken” Horn (U.S. Army, Ret.) knew that something was not right with his peripheral vision, especially during training exercises at night. Several visits to eye doctors over a 16-year span provided no insight into why some tasks were clearly, at least to him, more difficult than for his peers.

Despite this adversity and others caused by multiple injuries on active duty, Ken successfully rose to each Army challenge one-by-one. He still did everything he was told to do, and everything he was supposed to do. He did it with excellence, rating routinely among the best of his peers. He was well on the path to battalion command.

“There are several ways to creatively compensate for not seeing perfectly and that is literally what I did,” said Ken. “As crazy as it sounds, I found ways to successfully train and perform even when I could not see well.”

One day in 2006, while stationed in Turkey, Ken took his son to an optometrist who, on Ken’s request, took time to also examine his eyes. It was only then that a medical professional finally discovered an eye disease that was later determined to be retinitis pigmentosa.

Even after a diagnosis and subsequent prognosis that would logically leave the average military officer hopelessly discouraged, Ken rose to the challenge of legal blindness. He served four more years on active duty, becoming one of the most successful professors of military science in U.S. Army Cadet Command during his tenure.

“Ken’s initiative, consistency, and managerial capabilities are astounding, and to have done this as a legally blind soldier is a testament to the capacity of the human spirit,” said Major General Rita A. Aragon (USAF, Ret.), now Secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs for the State of Oklahoma.

Following military retirement, Ken took his tenacity, mentoring skills, and passion for veterans and their families to the University of Central Oklahoma, where he again rose to another challenge, that of bringing the school’s Veteran Higher Education Resource Office national recognition for excellence in less than three years. The office addresses the academic, financial, physical, and social needs of student veterans.

In 2017, Ken joined the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) and attended his first national convention in Jacksonville, Florida, where he was awarded the organization’s highest recognition for professional achievement even while knowing very little about BVA or the award.

“BVA was just something that I felt I should be involved in and the kind of people I should associate with,” he said. “The mission for veterans with vision loss to help their fellow veterans really hit home wi
th me.”

As Chairman of BVA’s Operation Peer Support Committee, Ken has now risen to the challenge once again, sharing his mentoring skills, his work ethic, and his love of veterans. In that role he encourages his fellow veterans with recent vision loss to regain their independence, social skills, and confidence through adaptive sports, education, and interaction with those who have faced the same adversity. He faces and rises above new challenges with them as together they ski, fish, walk the Appalachian Trail, and share the “war stories” associated with vision loss.

 

Joseph Parker –  Immediate Past President
(Deceased)

My Biography

 

Joe J. Parker, U.S. Navy, Retired., a native of Transylvania County, North Carolina, and a current resident of the city of Pisgah Forest, was elected July 20, 2010 as Director of District 3 and three years later was elected as BVA’s National Secretary. The latter action became official at Joe’s swearing-in at the BVA 68th National Convention on August 23, 2013 in Spokane, Washington.

Joe represents blinded veterans residing along the eastern seaboard from New Jersey to South Carolina and is a member himself of the North Carolina Regional Group.
Joe became legally blind in 1998 as a result of an acute exposure to Agent Orange as a Chief Construction Electrician in the northern regions of South Vietnam decades earlier. The exposure affected his pancreas and developed into diabetes and diabetic retinopathy. He served two combat tours in Vietnam during the 1960s.

Retiring from the Navy in 1989 as a Chief Petty Officer after 30 years of service, Joe also worked as a civil servant for 12 years for the Department of Labor. He retired from DOL as a GS-12.

“My fear is that other veterans will suffer the catastrophic total loss of their sight as I have,” he has said. “I have dedicated myself to other veterans and to blinded veterans in particular in the hope that my blindness will not be in vain—that I can prevent others from suffering the pitfalls that I have suffered and help them retain or regain their independence.”

Joe’s family first settled in Transylvania County in the late 1700s along the headwaters of the French Broad River. He attended school first in Brevard, North Carolina, and then in Rosman. He enlisted in the Navy in 1959.

Prior to his election as a BVA District Director, Joe served the organization locally as Treasurer of the North Carolina Regional Group. He also founded the Western Chapter of the group and established a volunteer office for BVA at the Asheville VA Medical Center. He is also an active, contributing member of The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the Fleet Reserve Association, having participated in the planning of parades, the production of patriotic ceremonies, and performance of honor guard details at funerals of Transylvania County veterans.

Joe is a past Senior Vice Commander of Post 4309 of VFW and a past 1st Vice Commander of Brevard’s Post 88 of The American Legion. He is an active public speaker promoting the use of guide dogs, a past member of the Pisgah Forest Lions Club and Lion of the Year in 2005-06, a past member of the local historical museum’s Board of Directors, a current member of Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge, and a member of the local Moose lodge.

 

Paul Mimms – Ombudsman
Email: paul8655@gmail.com
Phone: 816-718-2792

Fun Facts

 

Hometown:

School:

Favorite Movie:

Favorite Sports team:

Favorite Book:

Hidden Gem in your State:

Song that describes you:

Item on your bucket list:

My Biography

Paul Mimms, Missouri Regional Group, was born in Iowa City, Iowa, and moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1960. He graduated eighth in his class from the city’s Central High School in 1963.

Paul briefly attended Antioch College (Yellow Springs, Ohio) before induction into the U.S. Navy on May 16, 1966. He served shore duty in San Diego at the Naval Training Center and the Naval Electronics Laboratory Center. He was aboard the USS Luzerne County in the Mekong Delta. An accident on the ship led to early onset of glaucoma and his medical discharge in 1969.

Paul worked in the restaurant industry and in retail management before increasing blindness led to loss of employment in 1983. Following blind rehabilitation training in Kansas City and his enrollment at the Central Blind Rehabilitation Center (Hines, Illinois), Paul returned to college in 1986. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology at the University of Missouri Kansas City and Master’s Degree in Social Work in 1991 from the University of Kansas.

He began working for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1992 at the Kansas City Vet Center and later went to work at the West Palm Beach BRC in 2000. In 2004 he was selected as a VIST Coordinator at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. He was active in the Florida Regional Group while working at West Palm Beach, serving as a District Director within the group, Vice President, and President.

Paul retired in 2009 and returned to Kansas City, where he almost immediately became involved in the rejuvenation of the Missouri Regional Group where he was originally a charter member. Paul served as both Secretary and President of the group until his election to national office on August 23, 2013.

 

National Committees

Dr. Thomas Zampieri, President
Joe McNeil, Vice-President Vice Chair
Daniel Wallace, Secretary
Elizabeth Holmes, Treasurer
Kevin Jackson, Director District 6

Daniel Wallace, Chairman
Elizabeth Holmes, Vice Chair
Monaca Gilmore
Kevin Jackson

Daniel Wallace, Chairman
(3-year term expires 8/22)
Joe McNeil, Vice Chair
(2-year term expires 8/21)
Kennan Horn
(3-year term expires 8/23)
Elizabeth Holmes
(1-year term expires 8/21)
Monaca Gilmore
(3-year term expires 8/22)
Paul Kaminsky
(3-year term expires 8/21)
Donald Overton, HQ Staff
(Board appointment 4/20)
Sunny Patel, SmithBucklin
(Board appointment 8/19)

Dr. Thomas Zampieri, Chairman
Joe McNeil, Vice President, Vice Chair
Daniel Wallace
COL Robert Mazzoli, M.D.
Erin McConnell
Russ Nelson
Donald Overton

Daniel Wallace, Chairman
(2-year term expires 8/21)
Joe McNeil
(2-year term expires 8/21)
Kennan Horn
(3-year term expires 8/23)
Elizabeth Holmes
(1-year term expires 8/21)
R. Garret Bolks
(3-year term expires 8/22)
Donald Overton,  Executive Director
(Board appointment 4/20)
Sunny Patel, SmithBucklin
(Board appointment 8/19)

Dr. Mike Gandy
(3-year term expires 8/23)
Rosalind McQueen
(3-year term expires 8/22)
Joe Amerling 
(3-year term expires 8/22)

Joe McNeil, Chairman
Rae Hail
Kevin Jackson
Carlos Pere
Monaca Gilmore
Wade Davis
Jim Vale
Stephen Butler JD

Kevin Jackson, Chairman
Elizabeth Holmes, Vice Chair
Monaca Gilmore
Dennis O’Connell
Rae Hail
Joe McNeil
Carlos Pere
Tracy Ferro
Maria Ingegneri
Charles Reynolds
Dr Ron Lester

Dr. Thomas Zampieri, Chairman
Daniel Wallace, Vice Chair
Joe McNeil
Elizabeth Holmes
Monaca Gilmore
Kylie Fitzgerald, PR, HQ Staff
Andrea Malmer, Development, HQ Staff
Donald Overton,  Executive Director

Joe McNeil, Chairman
Richard Lane, Vice Chair
Stephen Butler Ph.D.
Daniel Wallace
Tracy Ferro
Scott Scieszinski
Wade Davis
Jim Vale
Donald Overton 

Timothy Hornik, Chairman
Darryl Goldsmith, Vice-Chair
Dennis O'Connell
Elizabeth Holmes
Kevin Jackson
Larry Bustletter Ph.D.
Charles Reynolds

Joe McNeil, Chairman
Monaca Gilmore, Vice-Chair
Margarine Beaman
Elizabeth Holmes
Richard Lane
Darryl Goldsmith
Charles Reynolds
Donald Overton

Dr. Thomas Zampieri, Chairman
COL Robert Mazzoli, M.D.
Donald Overton, Executive Director
Charles Reynolds, NSO, HQ Staff

Kennan Horn, Chairman
Steve Baskis, voting member
Lonnie Bedwell, voting member
Tina Lemus, voting member
Scott Scieszinski, voting member
Brian Harris, voting member
Eric Martz, voting member
Danny Wallace, voting member
Charles Reynolds, NSO, HQ Staff
Dr. Thomas Zampieri, Ex-Officio, non-voting member
Joe Amerling, Honorary Member, non-voting member

Elizabeth Holmes, Chair
Scott Scieszinski, Vice Chair
Paul Kaminsky
Kevin Jackson
Eric Marts
Dr. Thomas Zampieri
Stuart Nelson, Director of Public Relations
Kylie Fitzgerald, PR Team, HQ Staff

Scott Scieszinski, Chair
Cheryl Gajadhar
Kevin Jackson
Joe McNeil
Tracy Ferro
Kylie Fitzgerald, PR, HQ Staff

Monica Gilmore, Chair
Michaun Harrison
Marlene Davis-Lilly
Elizabeth Holmes
Jeanie Murphy
Erin McConnell, GR, HQ Staff
(Committee reports to VHA Female Veterans Special Advisory Committee)

Rae Hail, Chairman
Patti Hail
Paul Mimms
Gary Traynor
Ann Chiappetta
Irena Howard
Timothy Hornik
Donald Overton

Notes

  •  Committees shall provide minutes and schedule of meetings to BVA National President and Vice President.
  • Committee Vice-Chair has authority to schedule meetings should Chair fail to do so at least quarterly.