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With October’s Blind Awareness Month in our rearview mirror and Veterans Day arriving soon, we look back at our own almost 79 years of helping thousands of veterans as they overcome sight loss and the differences that these veterans make in not only their own life, but in the life of the veterans they meet throughout their time in BVA.

These men and women are our heroes, and their service and contributions mean more to BVA now than ever before as both our organization and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expand our outreach and concern from approximately 120,000 blinded veterans to nearly 1.1 million low vision veterans. For budget reasons, we set out to do this, at least for now, without additional professional staff or other important resources, but with a dedicated group of trained BVA ambassadors, volunteers, and simple role models who understand the meaning of dedication and loyalty to a cause.

One such standout individual veteran is 93-year-old Army veteran Enrique Sanchez of The Bronx, New York, a Mexican-born naturalized U.S. citizen. This past August, Enrique attended an unprecedented 48th consecutive national convention, where BVA awarded him with the organization’s Circle of Excellence award. While his mobility may not be exactly as it was just a few years ago, Enrique still has the same enthusiasm and interest he did when associating with his fellow veterans back in 1976.

“Serving in the Army and later becoming a U.S. citizen helped me in all my endeavors,” Enrique says. “I learned to carry myself with the highest esteem and respect and, wherever I went on the job, these were two of the things that made me triumph and attain all my goals.”

One of Enrique’s greatest triumphs, probably the one that tops them all, was his adjustment to blindness. From a young age, he was in love with diesel engineering and started his career in 1944 in the Merchant Marines as a Diesel Engineer. Ten years later, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

“They diagnosed my condition as bilateral papillitis, also called optic neuritis” Enrique recalls. “With it the optic nerves deteriorate, and they don’t mend.”

As Enrique remembers, the initial shock of knowing he was losing his sight was painful—almost too much to bear.

“One thing that got me though was joining the Blinded Veterans Association,” he says. “VA and BVA see to it that we have the necessary tools to work with, that we are always taken care of, and that we are never alone.”

Born in 1930, Enrique is a witness to an entirely new and different generation of veterans that are just now fully emerging. Although members of the new generation have varying degrees of sight loss, they are in desperate need of the same assistance with VA claims and other types of support, encouragement, and mentorship that Enrique has received.

This Veterans Day, Donate to Help Veterans with Sight Loss

As Veterans Day approaches and BVA continues to keep up with ever-expanding workloads, won’t you consider a donation to the Association toward those efforts? Any amount would be deeply appreciated by our now larger than ever constituency of blind and low vision veterans. Thank you so very much for your generosity and support.