Full Story

Jeanie Murphy was a newly-wed mother stationed with the U.S. Army in Fort Riley, Kansas, in 1996 when she went to the DMV to renew her driver’s license — and was unable to pass the vision test.

At the time, Jeanie and her husband, Robert, simply thought, “We’re getting older, so it’s time for glasses.” Besides, Jeanie and Robert were totally focused on their baby daughter, Rachel, who had just been diagnosed with a heart murmur and other congenital defects.

By the time an ophthalmologist saw Jeanie and told her she needed surgery to treat a condition called ocular histoplasmosis, the damage had already been done. Jeanie got excellent medical care through Walter Reed and Johns Hopkins, including two vitrectomies in which the clear internal jelly of her eyeballs was surgically removed. But beyond that, medical science could offer no further treatment options, and Jeanie was medically retired from the Army in 1998. It was during this time that Rachel, their daughter was diagnosed with Mitral stenosis (MS). Future surgeries were on the horizon, but Rachel passed away without warning in September of that same year.

It was a devastating time for Jeanie and Robert — the end of Jeanie’s military career, the loss of Jeanie’s vision, the death of their daughter — each catastrophe worse than the one before it by orders of magnitude. And there were not many resources to educate Jeanie and Robert on how to navigate this new world.

Instead of giving in and giving up during this time, Jeanie sought out something that would offer support and knowledge. Jeanie discovered the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) and joined immediately.

“BVA’s motto of ‘Blinded Veterans Helping Blinded Veterans’ struck me to the core,” Jeanie states.

BVA helped Jeanie realize that her blindness did not define her, and it offered both Jeanie and Robert a new extended family that shared their experiences. BVA became their passion. Jeanie is now president of BVA’s Heartland Regional Group. And Robert is the president of the BVA Auxiliary, a group for family members, caregivers, and other supporters of blind and low vision veterans.

Robert and Jeanie raised four more children and are now grandparents to two wonderful grandsons and a beautiful granddaughter.

If you are interested in learning more about Jeanie’s and Robert’s stories, tune in to the Visions of BVA, where we dedicate an episode to interview Jeanie and Robert.

Donate to Commemorate Military May

While Memorial Day is a great time to support BVA in honor of Jeanie and Robert; their story is a good reminder of several other important commemorations that take place during the month of May because Jeanie and Robert are connected to each one.

In addition to Memorial Day on May 27, Military Spouse Appreciation Day takes place a few weeks earlier on May 10. And the entire month of May is National Military Appreciation Month as well as the Month of the Military Caregiver. Plus, don’t forget Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 12.

Please consider donating in honor of any or all of these commemorative events or just to help BVA continue offering support and resources for others like Jeanie and Robert, who are finding light in the darkest of times.