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In Remembrance


									Cover Photo
Colonel Donald A. Gagliano will be the first National Director of the newly formed Military Vision
Centers of Excellence. See this issue’s Legislative Update for more about this historic appointment.
Pictured, left to right, Joseph Wilson, American Legion Deputy Director for Health Care; Norman
Lanphear, Manager of Public Health and Manpower at the American Academy of Ophthalmology;
Colonel Gagliano; and BVA’s Tom Zampieri.

In This Issue
Legislative Update
 by Tom Zampieri

President’s Page
 by Norman Jones

One Can Make
a Difference
  by Neil Appleby

Veterans Day 2008

OIF Blinded Serviceman
An Inspiration to All
  by Cody West

BVA’s 63rd:
A Look Back

Around BVA

Auxiliary’s View
 by Joyce Thornton

Of Note

Letters to the Editor

In Remembrance

Final Thought

Legislative Update
by Tom Zampieri

the 110th Congress

        The turmoil of the 110th Congress stemming from its relationship with the Executive Branch
has finally come to an end. Despite some of the disappointments, BVA and other Veterans Service
Organizations (VSOs) can now attest to the passage of significant VA disability and health care
        The legislation was preceded by an amazing 63 hearings held in the House and Senate
Committees on Veterans Affairs during the second session of the 110th Congress (2008).
        The most earth-shaking good news is that for only the second time in the past 15 years,
Congress, the White House, and VA completed work on the appropriations bill in a timely manner.
The FY 2009 Military Construction and Veterans Appropriations (MILCON/VA) bill was passed by
Congress and signed during the first week of the new fiscal year beginning October 1. The legislation
was part of the Continuing Resolution (CR) that funded all other federal agencies whose appropriations
had not yet been passed.
        This achievement did not come easily since Congressional leaders decided to attach Defense,
Homeland Security, and VA appropriations to the CR funding for other federal agencies so that the
President would not veto the bill.
        While the tactic worked this time, the fact that it had to happen this way at all served to
spotlight the growing need to reform the veterans health care budget process. Sufficient, timely, and
dependable funding each year for VA health care is critical to ensuring the accessibility of quality
health care delivery for all veterans.

Funding and Leadership
for New Vision Centers

        The aforementioned MILCON/VA appropriations bill includes $2 million for an eye trauma
registry information technology program within the newly established Military Vision Centers of
Excellence (VCE). The Centers will begin tracking all eye injuries that occur in combat operations.
        BVA members who have kept up with events relating to VCE know that this has been an
agonizing and painstaking process, but also a rewarding one. We are relieved that an improved system
is now in place to help service members who have experienced eye casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.
        Between March 2003 and the end of July 2008, Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation
Enduring Freedom (OEF, Afghanistan) have together produced approximately 1,500 moderate to
severe combat eye wounds among those injured and evacuated from war zones. Of this number, some
80 blinded service members have already attended residential VA Blind Rehabilitation Centers
        At press time, the Department of Defense had pledged just $3 million for FY 2009 toward the
establishment of the Vision Centers of Excellence in four Military Treatment Facilities. BVA has been
at the forefront of the drive to ensure that the Pentagon provide, in full, the $5 million necessary for
these four sites to begin operating.
        In addition to the $2 million information technology program, BVA successfully pushed for an
additional $6.9 million to be included in MILCON/VA for VA’s participation in the establishment of
VCE sites. As of yet, we do not know the specifics on how these funds will be used within the VA
system to benefit VCE.
        The Pentagon announced on November 6 that the first Director of the Vision Centers of
Excellence would be Army Medical Corps Colonel Donald A. Gagliano, a medical doctor, retinal

ophthalmologist, and a Fellow of the American College of Health Care Executives. He was named to
the position by S. Ward Casscells, M.D., the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.
        Dr. Gagliano has most recently served as Director of the Clinical Investigations Regulatory
Office in the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. He assumes the VCE directorship with
a most impressive resume that includes distinguished military training and experience, management
experience at multiple levels, and a career in military medicine, research, and academia.
        Dr. Gagliano has led soldiers at every level of command, most noteworthy of which is his
command of the 30th Medical Brigade in Iraq from February 2003 until February 2004. He
simultaneously served as the CJTF-7 Surgeon with responsibility for planning, integrating, and
executing coalition combat health support in Iraq during the first year of the war. The 30th Medical
Brigade was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation for exemplary performance during Dr. Gagliano’s
        BVA and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) enthusiastically endorsed Dr.
Gagliano’s candidacy. On November 5, several representatives from various VSOs met with him at
AAO to express their concerns and suggestions regarding the Centers (see Cover Photo).
        Dr. Claude L. Cowan, Jr. has been selected as the VCE Deputy Director. He has most recently
worked as an ophthalmologist at the VA Medical Center in Washington, DC, and is a Clinical
Professor of Ophthalmology at both George Washington and Georgetown University Medical Centers.
        Dr. Cowan received his Bachelor’s degree at Syracuse University and his medical degree at
Howard University. He did his residency at Freedman’s Hospital, which converted to Howard
University Hospital while he was in his residency. He then completed three fellowships at the Wilmer
Institute of Johns Hopkins Hospital, studying Flourescein Angiography and Neuro Ophthalmology,
External Ocular Diseases, and Anterior Segment Surgery.
        Both Dr. Cowan and Dr. Gagliano will be in charge of a combined clinical, administrative, and
information technological registry involving four VCE locations and several VA Medical Centers that
provide specialized services to wounded OIF and OEF service members.
        It bears repeating once again that the advent of the VCE is a dramatic and historic first,
bringing together in cooperation the Department of Veterans Affairs and all branches of the
Department of Defense. VCE will track serious eye injuries and eye diseases, updating clinical
progress in a timely and accessible manner and jointly arranging and collaborating on vision research
studies. Its mission is to prevent, diagnose, mitigate, treat, and rehabilitate military eye injuries.
        The creation of the Centers is essential in providing the best possible surgical and rehabilitative
eye care available to military personnel. We are confident that a system is now in place to track TBI
cases as they relate to visual impairments, an issue that has been a source of great consternation to
BVA since 2003.
        We recognize the collective efforts of the entire vision community that strongly supported the
Military Eye Trauma Treatment Act. We also express our thanks once again to Congressman John
Boozman (R-AR-3) for sponsoring the legislation.

Partnering for
Budget Reform

        BVA continues its nine-year affiliation with the “Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget
Reform,” a group of nine Congressionally chartered VSOs with a common objective—adequate
funding on time every year, not just once in a decade. Representatives of this partnership meet and
strategize frequently to determine the most effective means for making this objective a reality.

         The partnership recently developed, designed, and launched a new website highlighting our
efforts and official actions together. The site,, outlines the problem, possible
solutions, and supporting documents relating to budget reform.
         Delegates and other attendees at the BVA 63rd National Convention will recall our passage of
Resolution 40-08 at the Saturday closing business session. This resolution affirms BVA’s support for
the work of the partnership, calling for sufficient, timely, and predictable funding of VA health care.
The terminology now being used by VSOs, VA, and in the halls of Congress is “Advanced
         The Chairmen of the House and Senate VA Committees, Bob Filner (D-CA-51) and Daniel
Akaka (D-HI), respectively, introduced the “Veterans Health Care Budget Reform Acts of 2008” on
September 22. The bills were numbered H.R. 6939 and S. 3527. The fact that the two chairmen took
this action almost simultaneously is evidence of the progress that we have begun to see. Both chairmen
have also pledged to reintroduce new bills early in the 111th Congress, perhaps as soon as January

Continuum of Care
Progress and Updates

         VA is reporting that more than 44 VA Medical Centers have already received or have been
approved to receive centralized funding for a variety of basic, intermediate, and advanced blind or low
vision programs.
         Referred to as the Full Continuum of Care initiative in previous Bulletins, Congress directed an
additional $7 million for this plan in FY 2009. At press time, 11 additional full-time Visual Impairment
Services Team (VIST) Coordinators had been hired, bringing the total number to 105. There are now
77 authorized Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS) positions, of which 45 are currently
filled. The remaining 32 vacant positions, many of them new, are now being advertised in many
         In 2009, more VA Medical Centers than ever before will have VIST and BROS teams in place
to provide outpatient services to blinded veterans. In addition, VA has hired several low-vision
optometrists for new intermediate programs. VA is also in the process of establishing several advanced
blind outpatient “hoptel” programs for 2009.
         Admission to one of VA’s ten BRCs had a waiting time of 24 weeks back in 2004. That figure
has now been reduced to nine weeks as of the end of 2008. The waiting time for Computer Access
Training is presently at 18 weeks.
         Every blinded veteran enrolled in VA in any network will benefit from this expansion of
services, which began approximately one year ago. The progress demonstrates BVA’s influence in
bringing about these positive changes.

Vets Welcome Mileage
Reimbursement Raises

        On November 17, VA announced that eligible veterans would see an increase in the mileage
reimbursement they receive for travel to VA facilities for medical care. Secretary Peake indicated that
the amount would increase from 28.5 cents per mile to 41.5 cents.
        “We owe it to our veterans to give them the best care possible,” said Peake. “The increase will
once again provide assistance to them, especially in these difficult times, to help offset gasoline costs
and to assist veterans with access to VA’s world-class health system.”

        “Eligible veterans” in this case means those who are service connected, those receiving VA
pensions, and those with low incomes.
        In 2007, Congressman Jerry Moran (R-KS-1) successfully offered an amendment during House
consideration of the 2008 VA funding bill, which was signed into law in December of that year. The
increase at that time, the first since 1978, was from 11 cents to 28.5 cents.
        “It is good to see Congress and the President come together to make improvements in how our
nation cares for veterans, especially those living in rural areas,” said Moran.

A Healthy COLA

        The 2009 Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for VA disability benefits is the highest seen in
more than 15 years at 5.8 percent. The increase, which affects 2.8 million veterans and more than
300,000 surviving spouses receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, went into effect on
December 1.
        The Veterans Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment Act of 2008, S. 2617 introduced by
Chairman Akaka, also contained a provision whereby veterans compensation rates will keep pace with
inflation, making COLA bills unnecessary in future years.
        Announcement of the larger-than-usual adjustment was certainly good news for our BVA
membership. Social Security benefits for about 50 million retirees will increase by the same 5.8

Enhancement Act
Dies in Committee

        The House passed the Veterans Health Care Policy Enhancement Act of 2008, H.R. 6445, on
July 30. The legislation prohibited VA from requiring co-payments for hospital or nursing home care
of catastrophically disabled veterans.
        Unfortunately, there was no equivalent Senate bill. For this and other reasons, this legislation
was never included in any of the final VA Senate Committee packages, thereby dashing any hope that
something could be passed on the final day of the 110th Congress.
        Failure of this bill to get to the President is a major disappointment to many of our nonservice-
connected blinded veterans who cannot afford to attend inpatient BRCs because of the high co-
payments involved. BVA is already communicating with both Representatives and Senators in order to
get the bill reintroduced in the early days of the 111th Congress.

President’s Page
by Norman Jones

        In previous Bulletin issues I have attempted to write on topics that are associated with an event
in which I have participated as your national president. I have determined to give this President’s
Page a well-deserved twist from the norm.
        As BVA members and officers, we claim quite frequently that the backbone of the organization
is our Field Service Program. With this notion in mind, I wish to highlight the blinded veterans who
work under that banderole. Space limitations prevent me from covering all of them in this issue but I
will pick up where I leave off in the winter issue.

         I begin out west with Larry Martinez. Any member who has had anything to do with BVA for
the past 31 years knows of him. He is still going strong with the help of his lovely and devoted Elena.
Larry’s office is located in Sacramento. The territory he covers is designated as Region VI-A. Blinded
veterans living in Central and Northern California, Washington State, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho,
Alaska, Hawaii, and Northern Nevada can go to him for help.
         In addition to Larry’s program duties, he is also our official Assistant Field Service Program
Director. Has he set his sights on retiring? According to Elena, he most definitely has not. Larry can be
contacted at 916-967-7222.
         Heading south while still in California, we make a stop in the City of Angels at the office of
Earl “The Pearl” Ivie. His wonderful and witty wife Dolores refers to him as the “bulldog” of service
officers because, once he has bitten into a VA claim that is the least bit plausible, he never lets it go
until it is approved. I’ve been told that VA approves his claims just to make him go away.
         A warning to those who call Earl: Make sure you are prepared to stay the course. In other
words, have your breakfast, lunch, and dinner at hand. Pay attention to his questions and answers since
successfully following his instructions could mean extra dollars in your bank account.
         Earl has worked as a service officer for 13 years. He currently covers Southern California,
Southern Nevada, and Oregon. Blinded veterans who live in these areas and who need help with VA
benefits should give Earl a call at 310-235-6125. Still one more thing about Earl: He loves to fish, but
Dolores advises that no one mention the subject since Earl often plays with the truth when it comes to
his fishing ventures. She knows this because of his rather legendary account of a 982-pound marlin
that narrowly escaped from his 10-pound test fishing line.
         My next Field Service Program stop is in the mile-high city of Denver, where we visit with Dr.
Robert Gold, or “Honest Bob.” With three years as a service officer now under his belt, he was trained
under the superbly knowledgeable Peter Link. Bob is a retired optometrist who helped thousands with
their vision problems even before joining our staff. We joke that for Bob the completion of a claim
does not occur unless he also fits his client with eyeglasses—whether the client has vision or not!
         Bob covers Colorado, Utah, Texas, Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Montana. Feel free to
call him at 303-914-5831. Together, Bob and Peter earned some $250,000 for blinded veterans in the
aforementioned areas last quarter.
         Bob has been thinking about obtaining a guide dog. He has told everyone that he would prefer
to have a horse with 20/20 vision on which he could catch a ride to his office. His wife has indicated
that such will not happen very soon. Maybe Bob is affected by the mile-high air. He does have the
normal Colorado love of skiing and is also nuts about computers.
         Our current Field Service Program journey now east takes us east to the famous brew town of
Milwaukee to visit with Robert Malak. Bob’s office was in Chicago at one time but he is now
comfortable in Milwaukee. I have known Bob for a long time and he has now worked for BVA for 14
         Bob is currently in charge of Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and
Wisconsin. Blinded veterans living in one of the aforementioned states should not delay in calling Bob
to solve all of their problems! The office number is 414-382-5123.
         Just a few months ago, Bob helped a blinded veteran recoup approximately $300,000 in
retroactive payments. He has it in his blood to secure every deserving penny and every piece of needed
equipment if it will enhance the quality of life for a fellow veteran. Bob approaches his work with two
lingering questions: First, who can I help and, second, how can I help?
         Our BVA Field Service Representatives provide inspiration, encouragement, and practical
assistance. They understand the complexities and emotions that are part of helping veterans overcome
the challenges of blindness because they have been there themselves. They are effective role models in

helping all of us find and follow the road to independence. I encourage you to contact Larry, Earl, and
the two Bobs to become a beneficiary of this wonderful help and support.
        Five other individuals in our Field Service Program have not yet been mentioned. Please find
them by calling our National Headquarters or by locating their contact information at if you live in areas further east. Details on these equally dedicated people will
be forthcoming!

One Can Make
A Difference
by Neil Appleby, Past BVA National President

        NBC has a weekly news segment, Making a Difference, profiling persons who make a
difference. In August 2008, within the short span of three weeks, BVA lost a trio of leaders who, in
their own right, made a difference. Their lives and contributions were summarized in the past issue of
our Bulletin but a few additional comments of a personal nature are yet in order.
        Sid Ordway was a U.S. Special Forces officer who was blinded by a shot to the head, in
combat, in Vietnam. After a period of rehabilitation, he went on to earn a Jurist Doctorate and became
a practicing lawyer. He later earned a second Doctorate in Political Science. He became active in
BVA’s South Texas Regional Group, eventually serving as President. His outstanding leadership
qualities are evident today as the South Texas Regional Group remains one of the strongest within
BVA. Sid served with distinction on the National Board of Directors as Treasurer, Secretary and Vice
President, a total of five years. He had five more years of Board service facing him when he passed
away. We can only imagine how eloquently and how “lawyerly” he would have testified on our behalf
before Congress.
        Our General, General Weeks, was a sailor! He served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War.
We have learned, anecdotally, the difference this man, with the unique given name, made upon his
shipmates. We also know, firsthand, that this quiet-spoken southern gentleman made a difference in his
community. During his working years, General’s contributions to mankind were recognized within his
adopted State of Massachusetts.
        General was blinded by disease. Upon retirement from his civilian career, he stepped into
leadership positions within his regional group. When elected to become Director of District 1, he
recognized the need to train leaders within the various regional groups. As a member of the BVA
Board of Directors, he accepted the awesome responsibility of providing leadership training
throughout the country. General was the best known member of BVA. He may be one of the best
known in the organization’s history. He touched all of our lives.
        Hank Bloomberg was an Army veteran of the Korean War. He worked as a diesel mechanic.
He was blinded by disease and lost his government-issued, heavy-duty, truck inspection license. After
a period of retraining he earned a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. For a time, he worked
as a BVA Field Service Officer in the northeast. He retired as a rehab counselor for the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As he traveled the northwest quadrant of the state, caring for his
civilian clients, he identified veterans who were eligible for VA blind rehabilitation. Concurrently, he
served a total of ten years as President of BVA of Pennsylvania. He twice received the Pennsylvania
Commendation Medal from the Governor. He founded and led a chapter of the American Council of
the Blind in north central Pennsylvania.

        General’s former VIST Coordinator, Mary McManus, wrote a beautiful poem about General
that was presented at his funeral service and printed in our previous Bulletin issue. Kenneth Bass, a
client and friend of Hank’s, has penned a similarly moving verse as a tribute to him:

                                        A Diesel Truck Mechanic
                                         During the Korean War,
                               Hank saw to it, those diesels ran for sure.
                                        Yet his success continued
                                        After loss of his eyesight,
                                    Hank Bloomberg went right on
                                        To keep up with the fight.
                                   From Bowling Green University,
                                           He graduated with a
                                  Rehabilitation Counseling Degree
                                  And made a difference in the lives
                                       Of people with low vision,
                                       Those people included me.
                                     I knew this man and I can say,
                                  His advice helped me find my way.
                                Hank was awarded a medal and citation
                                  For all to show their appreciation.
                              I want to follow the example that Hank set
                                 Because I am a visually impaired vet.
                                    I’ll remember Hank Bloomberg
                                     For his support and inspiration
                                 To the Blinded Veterans Association.

        Sid, General, and Hank have now left us. They have, ironically, left us with both a leadership
legacy and a leadership void at the same time. There may never be, nor perhaps can there be, anyone
such as they in our BVA ranks. Nevertheless, who among us will step up to do at least a few of the
things they did? Impossible as it may seem, we must all attempt to emulate their examples, serving
others in the same manner they sacrificed for all of us.

Veterans Day 2008

OIF Blinded Serviceman
An Inspiration to All
by 1st Lieutenant Cody West
Joint Base Balad, Iraq

       What is the Warrior Ethos and what does it mean? For members of the 5th Engineer Battalion,
or "Fightin' Fifth," the Warrior Ethos is the embodiment of everything that is good about our Nation
and our Army.

         It is about strength of character and a will to win, about selflessly serving a greater goal or ideal
and being part of a team, and about facing tremendous challenges and never quitting. It is also about
being a soldier.
         Today our military is deployed around the world. Soldiers and their families face many
challenges and continuous sacrifice. Soldiers of the Fightin' Fifth are often asked, "Why do you do it?"
For most, the answer is as simple as, "Because I am a soldier, it is my duty, and I embody the Warrior
         Understanding this answer often isn't as simple as it was for those providing it, especially for
those not in the military and those perhaps not as familiar with the meaning of the Warrior Ethos.
         Therefore, for us in the Fightin' Fifth, it becomes convenient to use a real world example.
Today, in our ranks, we have many standout soldiers. One in particular exemplifies this spirit. His
name is Joe Bogart. Joe happened to attend the BVA 62nd National Convention in Albuquerque in
August of 2007 as a participant in your Operation Peer Support program.
         Joe started out his Army service as an enlisted soldier. After several years and having earned
the rank of Staff Sergeant, he made a decision to attend Officer Candidate School and become an
officer. During his first assignment with the 5th Engineer Battalion, he served as a platoon leader in the
2nd Platoon of Bravo Company.
         "Bittersweet" is often used to describe a platoon's last mission on the battlefield. On the sweet
side of this last mission comes a sense of accomplishment and pride, accompanied by the anticipation
of making it home safely to loved ones. On the bitter side, there is apprehension and a foreboding of
loss for the strong bonds that form between soldiers who have worked so closely together in a
dangerous and stressful environment.
         As the mission is completed, a brotherhood comes to an end. In October of 2006, the Soldiers
of Bravo Company 5th Engineer Battalion were at that point. They were changing out with the unit
sent to replace them and completing their last combat missions. Second Lieutenant Joe Bogart was the
platoon leader for the 2nd Platoon Bravo Company 5th Engineer Battalion, which had been performing
route clearance missions in Baghdad since November 2005. Route Clearance Platoons are Combat
Engineers who search for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to eliminate and help keep the roads
safe for Coalition Forces, Iraqi Security Forces, and the Iraqi people.
         On the morning of October 6, the 2nd Platoon was completing its last mission when, at
approximately 1100 hours, an IED consisting of four 155 millimeter artillery rounds detonated on the
passenger side of the fourth vehicle in the platoon's patrol. The rounds exploded four feet away from
where 2nd Lieutenant Bogart sat in his command vehicle.
         As Joe now says, "sometimes you find the IEDs and sometimes they find you." He was hit
with shrapnel that was an inch and a half long and which had a jagged edge on one side. It was a small
but devastating chunk of steel. The shrapnel penetrated at the edge where the window and door meet.
His driver, gunner, and interpreter sustained shock and blast concussions.
            Joe describes his injuries and some of the medical treatment as follows:
          "My forehead was fractured in several places above the left and right eye. The upper orbital
bone on the right eye was destroyed, my nose was flattened against the Blue Force Tracker Screen
which was located in front of me inside the vehicle, my cheek bones were both fractured, and my
upper palate under my nose and above the roof of the mouth was fractured. I have titanium mesh in my
right orbit above the right eye socket as well as in my forehead and in my nose.
         The medical evacuation helicopter arrived on site 22 minutes after the explosion. Joe was
evacuated to and eventually woke up at Forward Operating Base Anaconda, currently known as Joint
Base Balad located 32 miles north of Baghdad. Joint Base Balad at the time had the most diverse group
of physicians able to handle the trauma Joe had experienced.

          It has been two years, five surgeries, and one prosthetic eye since Joe was wounded in action
that October morning in 2006 during his first tour in Iraq. Today, he is legally blind with a prosthetic
right eye and the most amazing, inspirational, and humbling part of this story is that he is now Captain
Joe Bogart, back in the fight and selflessly serving his nation proudly in Iraq. He remains a member of
the Fightin' Fifth Engineer Battalion and is currently serving as the Executive Officer of Headquarters
          The process to keep Joe in the Army, let alone allow him to deploy to Iraq, seemed
insurmountable. His Warrior Ethos, together with the support of his family, friends, and numerous
senior leaders, all made it possible.
          Joe credits the doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for saving some of his eyesight.
While legally blind, his "good" eye still sees 20/40 with glasses. When it came down to the final
decision, it was Joe who would not accept defeat, Joe who never quit, and Joe who fought passionately
to continue his service in the Army and deploy with his Battalion once again.
          Joe was offered military retirement, along with opportunities to stay engaged with soldiers and
pursue a civilian career. Despite the attraction, the decision to fight to continue his military service was
an easy one: He simply saw it as his duty, and it was what he felt he had to do.
          Says Joe:
          "I have something to prove to myself. I have to prove that I am not a coward, that I am not
scared of getting hurt, and that the guy on the other end of that IED didn't get me, and that Joe Bogart
is still here. Additionally, the influence and support I received from my wife, fellow soldiers, and
leaders were absolutely critical and enabled me to do what I felt I needed to do."
          When Joe is asked to give advice, he has a message;
          "Don't forget what you learned. Wear the protective gear you are issued. Getting blown up and
walking away isn't fun. It means you were lucky. Getting wounded isn't glorious or cool; it freaking
hurts, and continues to hurt for the rest of your life. But you deal with the pain both physically and
emotionally. A Purple Heart isn't an award to strive for but is something the military gives you when
you get wounded and you pay a price that you didn't plan on paying or ever hope to pay. It’s a price
that you don't even know. We all sacrifice for the good of our nation. It’s just that some of us have the
scars on the outside."
          As Headquarters Company Executive Officer, it is business as usual for Captain Bogart. He
manages all administrative and logistic support for the company and oversees the operational
employment of the battalion's medical support, religious support, and battalion leadership's personal
security detachment. He ensures that physical training is a part of the daily schedule and recently
competed in and finished the Army ten-miler road race on Joint Base Balad on October 5.
          Joe plans to stay in the Army with the intent to attend the Captain's Career Course and to later
command an Engineer Company.
          Joe Bogart is a soldier who exemplifies the Warrior Ethos. He shows us what being a soldier is
all about each and every day. Joe has been to hell and back and in some respects will live with a bit of
hell for the rest of his life. But with Joe you would never know it. He never complains, he is always
positive, and he goes out of his way to make others feel that they are part of the team.
          Joe even makes the most of his prosthetic eye. Unfortunately, he can't use it to see but instead
uses it to convey what is important to him by affixing the American Flag and Engineer Castle to it.
Captain Joe Bogart doesn't know the meaning of self-pity.
          This soldier, husband, and father is an inspiration to us all. Thankfully, we have citizens and
soldiers like Joe Bogart.

Lieutenant Cody Rachelle West is a platoon leader and Public Affairs Officer in the 5th
Engineer Battalion, and is stationed with Captain Bogart at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. The article

was previously printed in the Expeditionary Times, a military publication of the 3rd Electronic
Security Command at Joint Base Balad.

BVA’s 63rd:
A Look Back

Around BVA
Popaditch Book Recounts
Life-Altering Experiences

        Blinded Marine Gunnery Sergeant Nick Popaditch, an Operation Peer Support participant at the
62nd National Convention in Albuquerque, is now a published author. His book, Once A Marine,
published by Savas Beatie, is an inspirational memoir of his combat experiences in the Gulf War and
Operation Iraqi Freedom.
        The book is a real-life, no-holds-barred account of what it is like to be a U.S. Marine in the late
20th and early 21st centuries.
        Once A Marine also highlights Nick’s injuries and the courage required of his family during
his recovery. Nick was struck in the head by an enemy rocket-propelled grenade during a firefight with
enemy insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq, on April 7, 2004. The grenade was fired from a rooftop into the
commander’s hatch of his tank, resulting in numerous shrapnel wounds to his head and neck. Nick was
med-evacuated to Germany and subsequently stateside. His right eye was removed and his remaining
eye was declared legally blind. His right ear and nose sustained significant damage and an implant was
placed in his skull.
        “I am excited about the release of Once A Marine and hope it serves to thank the members of
BVA who helped me,” he said. “I hope it gives strength and sound counsel to those who come after
me. Thanks for everything you have done for me and my fellow veterans.”
        Nick credits BVA members for helping him obtain the help he needed most in his recovery
        “After I was wounded, some of the first to assist me were blinded veterans,” Nick said.
“Navigating the VA system is tricky, but I’ve always received sound advice from those who have gone
through this before me.”
        BVA members and friends met Nick Popaditch, his wife, April, and Nick, Jr. at the
Albuquerque gathering.
        Once A Marine has its own website at To view its book trailer, go to

Pilz Shines at
USBGA Nationals

       BVA life member George Pilz, Pennsylvania Regional Group, has taken first place in the
Senior Division of the U.S. Blind Golf Association’s 63rd Annual National Championship

        The championships were held September 22-23 at River Bend Links, a three-casino complex in
Tunica, Mississippi.
        George, a totally blind golfer and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, was quick to credit his
USBGA coach, John Lucas of New Orleans, as well as Harry Heagy, head golf professional at
Edgemont Country Club in Edgemont, Delaware County, where he regularly plays. Both men, he said,
have teamed with him many times and have been instrumental in his golfing success.
        “When you are totally blind, golf actually becomes a team effort and a team sport,” said
George, who also plays golf with Director of District 3 Sam Huhn and other BVA members in Middle
Atlantic Blind Golf Association competition. “There are plenty of people who have helped me in a
very personal way with my golf game and, as everyone knows, without our coaches we would not be
playing at all!”
        George faced several qualifying rounds through play in the Middle Atlantic Association in
order to compete nationally with 20 of the best totally blind senior golfers in the country. His win and
the subsequent crystal trophy presentation were especially emotional in view of a promise that his win
had fulfilled.
        “I made a commitment to my mother before she passed away that I would win a national
championship for her,” he said. “So this is no fluke—the practice and preparation I put myself through
to win was in recognition of all she did to help me adjust to blindness.”
        George was blinded in 1960 in an automobile accident. He attended the Central Blind
Rehabilitation Center at Hines shortly thereafter and subsequently received a Bachelor’s degree from
Ursinus College and a Master of Business Administration from St. Joseph’s University. George’s
master’s thesis addressed the role of technology in mainstreaming the blind and visually impaired. He
worked for the research division of Western Electric and its offshoots until starting his own company,
Vision Tech, Inc., in 1991. Vision Tech addressed the technological needs of the blind and visually
        “George is an amazing person and one of those guys who has been constantly ahead of his
time,” said Sam Huhn. “He was one of the first guys I saw jogging on a tether with another person
guiding him, and he was also one of the first blind guys to get a talking traffic signal at the corner
nearest his home.”

An Impressive Launch for
New Cape God Group

        BVA’s newly organized and chartered Cape Cod Island Regional Group got off to a quick,
running start through a series of fortuitous circumstances and events late last summer.
        The group is comprised of 39 members. Shortly after its formation, President Walter “Cliff”
Fisher received a telephone call from Region I Field Service Representative Ed Eckroth. Ed informed
Cliff that a local Lions Club in Norfolk, based within the confines of the regional group, was engaged
in a fund raising motorcycle rally and raffle. He told Cliff that the Lions were interested in donating
the proceeds to blinded veterans.
        In discussions with Director of District 1 David VanLoan, it was determined that the new
regional group could accept all of the funds the Lions would donate.
        The September 20 rally had a military theme to honor all veterans, using the motto “Honoring
Our Blind Veterans and Celebrating Patriotism!” The ride passed veterans memorials, circumnavigated
Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, and cruised through an area considered to be countryside. A barbecue
with live music, games, and a raffle followed for a 2008 Victory Kingpin 8-Ball motorcycle.

        “We anticipated a donation of a thousand or so dollars to get this group off the ground,” said
David VanLoan. “Imagine our shock and deep gratitude when we were invited to the Lion’s meeting
on October 28 and received a check for $5,546!”
        The Cape Cod Island Regional Group is actively seeking out blinded veterans who may be
unaware of BVA and the VA services for which they are eligible. Cape Cod and vicinity is an area
comprised of a higher than average percentage of retirees.
        The group received an additional lift on Veterans Day when Cape Cod Times reporter Karen
Jeffrey published a story highlighting Cliff Fisher’s initiative to form the group and get it chartered
with the national organization. The headline read: “Vet’s Vision Benefits Cape Colleagues.”

Eckroth Joins
FSP Staff

        Edward Eckroth has joined the BVA full-time staff as the Field Service Representative for
Region I working out of Boston. Ed replaced the retiring Robie MacLauglin early last summer.
        Ed brings a wealth of experience in retail management and in working with community
volunteer organizations. These include local VFW posts, youth sports, and a local Head Start program,
where he served for three years on a policy board and for one of the three years as vice chairman of the
        Ed lost much of his vision in 2003 to a rare eye disease.
        “My disability has given me a great gift,” he said. “I have been able to slow down and look at
my goals and life, learning to not take things for granted and to seek out opportunities where I can help
        Ed’s work as a Field Service Representative will allow him to do just that as he serves blinded
veterans in Region I, which covers Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York,
Rhode Island, and Vermont.
        Ed completed Computer Access Training at the Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center and has
been accepted in a program for disability services at the University of Pennsylvania.

BVA Scholarships to Assist
Blinded Veteran Dependents

        BVA will award six Kathern F. Gruber scholarships for the 2009-10 academic year, according
to Brigitte Jones, Administrative Director at the Association’s National Headquarters.
The six scholarships are valued at $2,000 each.
        The BVA Scholarship Committee will also select three alternates in case any of the awards
cannot be subsequently accepted.
        Gruber scholarships are limited to spouses and dependent children of blinded veterans, but the
blinded veteran in question does not have to be a BVA member. Scholarships are awarded on the basis
of merit by the Committee.
        The awards are for a single academic year of study but recipients can re-apply to receive them a
second, third, or fourth time.
        Requests for scholarship applications can be addressed to BVA National Headquarters, Attn:
Kathern F. Gruber Scholarship Program, 477 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20001. They can also be
addressed to Keleeba Scott at 202-371-8880 or Information and applications are also
located at
        Completed applications must arrive at BVA National Headquarters no later than Monday, April
13, 2009.

BVAA Announces
Funds for 2009-10

        The Blinded Veterans Association Auxiliary (BVAA) will award three $2,000 and two $1,000
Renee Feldman scholarships for the 2009-10 academic year. The scholarships are open to the spouses
and children of blinded veterans and membership in BVA is not required.
        To be eligible for a Feldman scholarship, the applicant must have been accepted at the school
of his/her choice. The institution in question may be a vocational school, community college, four-year
college, or university.
        The fees in all cases are paid directly to the school and are intended to defray the cost of tuition,
books, and general fees.
        The application process for the scholarships includes supplying information about previous
academic achievement, a statement of present goals and plans, a 300-word essay, and letters of
reference. Completed application packets must be received no later than Friday, May 1, 2009.
        For further information and an application, available in early January 2009, contact Hazel
Compton, BVAA Scholarship Chair, P.O. Box 267, Richlands, VA 24641, or by telephone at 276-963-

New Jersey Exhibit
Features Naranjo Art

        Michael Naranjo, BVA life member from the New Mexico Regional Group and a sculptor now
known worldwide, is exhibiting “Visions of the Mind” at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New
        Touch tours for the blind and visually impaired and a lecture by Michael entitled “Touching
Beauty” were conducted prior to the exhibition’s opening in late October. The opening coincided with
Art Education for the Blind’s “Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month,” conducted annually during the
month of October.
        “Visions of the Mind” will be on view through April 26, 2009. Additional information about
the exhibition and Grounds for Sculpture is available at
        Michael is a Native American Vietnam veteran who lost his sight during the war. Learning to
make things from clay was a natural outgrowth of his artistic spirit, having been reared by a mother
who was a celebrated ceramic artist and who taught her children and grandchildren the art of pottery.
His style is relatively simple, consisting of the use of his fingernails to etch the detail in his sculptures.
Tools are cumbersome and impractical. Ultimately, if a piece does not feel right to him, he’ll tear it up,
perhaps salvaging a single arm or leg.
        Michael’s work is found in individual and museum collections around the world, including the
Vatican, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, and the White House. In 2007, he donated one of his favorite
pieces to BVA for auction in order to provide financial support to the BVA 62nd National Convention.
        Michael has refined his intuition to the point that he can assess through touch alone whether his
pieces have movement, composition, balance, and flow. He is a strong advocate for the opportunity to
have and maintain “direct contact with art.”
        Grounds of Sculpture is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday in Hamilton, New

Florida Group Active
in Promoting BVA

        The Florida Regional Group kept up its torrid pace in promoting the services available to
blinded veterans by actively participating in community and state events relating to the blind and
visually impaired.
        The Southwest District of the regional group participated in the annual Vision Awareness
Walkathon in Lakes Park, City of Fort Myers, on October 11. The walkathon involved 140 walkers
attempting to raise funds to benefit the blind and visually impaired.
        Only two weeks earlier, Regional Group President Paul Kaminsky and Southwest District
Director John Thomas of Saint James City distributed BVA literature at Military Family Appreciation
Day festivities in the City of Largo.

Greater Houston Fishing
A Big Hit with Members

        More than 45 blinded veterans, their escorts, and an Orientation and Mobility Instructor
showed up for the Greater Houston Regional Group’s annual fishing trip to Galveston Bay last July.
        The activity is one of several premier events sponsored by the group each year. Such events
bring about increased camaraderie.
        “The vets from the Greater Houston Regional Group love getting out to spend time and share
with one another,” said Regional Group President Ronnie Anderson. He also said that the opportunity
to catch fish courtesy of Galveston Party boats does not hurt either.
        “This year we caught several hammer head sharks, some red fish, and a few trout,” said
Ronnie. “It’s great to have the deck hands there to help bait the hooks and then remove the fish once
we reel them in.”

Blinded Vets Energized by
Revamped Iowa TEE

        BVA members attending this year’s TEE (Training, Exposure, Experience) Tournament
September 8-12 in Iowa City, Iowa, received a surprise that left them anxiously anticipating future
TEE events more than ever before.
        “It was announced early in the week that the TEE Tournament is now a national VA-sponsored
event,” said Dennis O’Connell, New York Regional Group. “This is exciting news in that funding is
now in place to make it not only a permanent fixture but one that can become bigger and bigger.”
         The event, now known officially as the National Veterans TEE Tournament hosted by the
Iowa City VA Medical Center, has grown from 36 blind and visually impaired participants in 1994 to
117 participants in 2008. In 2002 there was a record 131 participants. The event is now open to male
and female veterans who are legally blind or who have orthopedic amputations, use wheelchairs for
mobility, or who have been through the Give (Golf for Injured Veterans) Program.
        In addition to golf, participants have typically bowled during their week in Iowa City. In 2006,
horseshoe tossing was added to the tournament’s activities. Some 250 volunteers from the VA Medical
Center staff and Iowa City community serve as golf buddies, sighted guides, food servers, and casino
night helpers. In addition to the support of VA and several other generous private contributors, the
TEE Tournament is also now sponsored by Help Hospitalized Veterans.
        The 2008 TEE Tournament winner was Don Grigsby, a member of BVA’s Ohio Regional

Agency Head Greets
BVA Directors in DC

        Jonathan Scharfen, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS),
invited BVA’s Executive Director and two Department Directors to the agency’s headquarters in
Washington, DC, for a September 16 meeting.
        The focus of the meeting, which included Tom Miller, Steve Matthews, and Tom Zampieri,
was potential employment opportunities for blinded veterans within USCIS. Discussion centered on
technology that makes those with vision loss more employable than ever before.
        “We are determined to actively seek out disabled veterans that can be successfully employed
within our agency nationwide,” Scharfen said during the meeting. “We are particularly mindful of the
opportunities that may be available to our service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.”
        Tom Zampieri expressed optimism that BVA could assume an important role in helping
recently blinded veterans train for and find gainful employment.
        “Employment issues may well become increasingly important to BVA in the near future as we
add members from the OIF and OEF conflicts,” he said. “I believe this is something we will need to
have on our front burner for many years to come.”

George Myers Celebrates
New Hometown Memorial

        The Fourth of July 2008 was an especially memorable holiday for Arkansas Regional Group
President George Myers with the dedication of a new veterans memorial in his small town of St.
Vincent, Arkansas.
        Accompanied by other town dignitaries, George spoke at the dedicatory services, thanking the
community for the memorial and expressing what it means to the town’s veterans that generations of
the future will now see something that honors them.
        The memorial consists of two marble slabs, divided by a flagpole of some 25 feet and engraved
with names of all who have served in every branch of service and for whom the town has a record,
including Army veterans George Myers and his father, Henry Myers. The slabs also include a few OEF
and OIF service members.
        “This small community of 150 families has always been a patriotic community,” said George.
“You see relatives’ names going all the way back to the Spanish-American War.”
        At the outbreak of World War II, 75 families sent 21 of their sons into the service. All returned
but one.
        The memorial was placed in front of the town’s Catholic Church, a gathering point in the town
for a number of functions. As traffic passes by on Highway 95, drivers can clearly see the spotlight
shining on both the marble slabs and the U.S. flag.
        The dedication included a larger-than-usual Independence Day picnic celebration—hot dogs,
hamburgers, lemonade, iced tea, homemade ice cream, and a large fireworks display after dark.
        Bake sales, rummage sales, donations, and many other sacrifices by citizens of St. Vincent
made the memorial possible.

Poet Dedicates Book
to General Weeks

        Published author and poet Mary McManus has dedicated the audio recording of her book of
inspirational poetry to General Weeks.

       The name of the publication is New World Greeting: Inspirational Poetry and Musings for
a New World. Mary also appears on radio talk shows and blogs to discuss how the gift of poetry has
become a healing force in her life.
       Mary’s audio recording dedication, which is a tribute to General, occurred when she began
recording the book at the Perkins Talking Book Library on November 4. The recorded version will be
available shortly through the Talking Book Library and will also be on sale on CD.
       Mary also wrote a poem to General that was read at his funeral and reproduced in the Summer
2008 issue of the Bulletin. She was formerly a VIST Coordinator at the Boston VA Medical Center.

Auxiliary’s View
by Joyce Thornton

        The change in seasons from summer to autumn seemed to motivate some of us BVA Auxiliary
members this year. In Florida’s Lee County, for example, we completed a walkathon on behalf of the
visually impaired on October 11. The event, which I had the opportunity to chair, was done in
conjunction with White Cane Day activities recognized by the Lee County Board of Commissioners.
        BVA took part in the walkathon and was one of the organizations that benefited from the
        World War II veteran Edwin Wack, a graduate of the West Palm Beach BRC, was the oldest
blinded veteran participant at age 90. Despite being totally blind, Edwin led the walk briskly. He was
accompanied by Vietnam Navy veteran Larry Newman and Army Vietnam veteran Terry King. Edwin
has distinguished himself in the past for his independence and penchant for computer use. Add one
more kudo to his list—a successful walkathon.
        The event was the fifth of its kind organized by the Fort Myers VIST. Its dual purpose is to
celebrate White Cane Day and to educate the community about visual impairment. Each participating
agency, seven in all, is responsible to come up with its own walkers and to help make the event a
        The money collected was shared among the participating organizations. The share this year for
BVA was $1,098. The funds will be used locally next May to help in the transportation of veterans to
the state convention of the Florida Regional Group.
        Each walker donated $20 and, in return, received lunch, a tee shirt, and additional opportunities
to win other prizes. Music was provided and everyone had a wonderful time walking in the Florida
autumn sunshine in a beautiful park.
        Other accounts of White Cane Day celebrations are welcome and important. It is important to
share them with one another so that we can all improve our efforts. Please send them my way if you
have them.
        The holiday season is now upon us. On behalf of BVAA, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas, a
Happy Hanukkah, a Blessed Kwanzaa, and the Happiest of New Years. As a first priority moving
ahead into the New Year, do not forget to encourage eligible students to apply for a Renee Feldman
scholarship for 2009-10.

Of Note
Obama Taps Shinseki

        Eric Ken Shinseki is President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee to become the seventh Secretary
of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The formal announcement came just prior to press time on
December 7.
        Shinseki is the first Asian American ever to become a four-star general and the first to lead one
of the five military services, having served as U.S. Army Chief of Staff from 1999 to 2003.
        Shinseki was born in Lihue, Kauai in the then Territory of Hawaii to a Japanese American
family. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1965 with a Bachelor’s degree and a
commission as a second lieutenant. He later earned a Master’s degree in English Literature from Duke
        The nomination is expected to receive swift confirmation in the U.S. Senate.

Outreach Program Honors
Contributions, Sacrifices

        Operation Tribute to Freedom (OTF) is a headquarters department of the Army outreach
program that provides recognition, speaking, and media events giving soldiers an opportunity to share
their personal stories of service.
        The program was created to provide the American public with a connection to the men and
women returning daily from Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Kerry Meeker, OTF Program
Manager, incorporating the perspectives of soldiers into community events can add a unique dimension
to discussions on a variety of topics.
        Since 2004, OTF has connected more than 31,000 soldiers with more than 16.5 million
Americans at 800 events. Topics addressed by the soldiers include deployment experiences, leadership,
teamwork, camaraderie, and mentorship. The meetings also provide opportunities for Americans to
honor soldiers and for soldiers to thank Americans for their support.
        OTF also works with VSOs to identify soldiers and stories that will resonate with their
members and enhance their events. BVA regional groups interested in hosting a speaker may contact
Kerry Meeker at 703-693-7810 or at Additional information is also
available through the OTF general phone line, 703-693-7641, or at

“America’s Heroes at Work”
Offers Support for TBI, PTSD

        The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has launched “America’s Heroes at Work,” a public
education campaign focusing on the employment of transitioning service members living with
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
        The project is designed primarily for employers and human resource professionals. It provides
information and tools to help veterans with TBI or PTSD to succeed in the workplace. The campaign
also seeks to dispel some of the myths surrounding the conditions.
        Because TBI has been labeled the signature injury of the Global War on Terror, attention has
been turned to those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. According to DOL consultant Jennifer
Hadesty, millions of other Americans are nevertheless experiencing these same common conditions
and should not be neglected.
        For more information, go to The site features common
employer questions, success stories, downloadable fact sheets, and practical information on
implementing simple workplace supports for those who have experienced TBI and PTSD.

Scholarship Program Assists
Injured Blinded Vets

         The Alcon Blind/Visually Impaired Scholarship Program sends service members severely
injured in Iraq, Afghanistan, or other recent conflicts for a week-long rehabilitation experience at the
Adaptive Sports Association in Durango, Colorado.
         Designed to help individuals develop the physical skills and confidence needed to enjoy sports
and bring back a “quality of life,” the long-range objective of the ASA program is a positive,
sustainable impact on participants with blindness.
         Typical Alcon scholarships include travel to and from Durango, lodging at a motel, most meals,
specialized adaptive equipment, clothing, and instruction. The average stay is six days, four of which
involve ski and snowboard instruction. Spouses and/or other companions may be eligible for full or
partial funding.
         For more information, go to and link to the appropriate page describing
scholarships through the Alcon Corporation.

Choice Magazine
Listening Goes Digital

        Choice Magazine Listening (CML) is one of the latest additions to the digital download pilot
program sponsored by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the
Library of Congress.
        CML presents eight hours of current magazine writing, free of charge, six times a year. The
unabridged short stories, essays, poetry, and interviews are chosen from about 100 periodical and
literary journals such as Smithsonian, The New Yorker, and Sports Illustrated. They are read by
actors at the studios of the American Foundation for the Blind.
        “In addition to our four-track cassettes, we wanted to make the material available to the new
generation of Internet users,” explained Sondara Mochson, CML editor.
        The partnership with NLS provides a secure website and an expanding readership of registered
participants with documented print-related disabilities.
        Information about a free subscription and cassette player is available on the CML website at or by calling toll-free 888-724-6423.

Growing Concern Over
Exposure to Asbestos

        Millions of veterans who served in World War II and Korea were exposed to asbestos, a toxic
mineral that was widely used in thousands of products. Asbestos-related illnesses include asbestosis (a
progressive pulmonary disease), lung cancer, and mesothelioma (a rare cancer that usually affects the
lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen).
        According to the Mesothelioma Cancer Center, veterans account for more than 30 percent of
those suffering from mesothelioma. For more information on asbestos and its associated diseases, visit, a comprehensive site dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of asbestos

MyVetwork Offers
New Online Community

        A new online social networking platform has been custom designed to be the most valuable and
sustainable community of individuals in the U.S. military—whether active duty or veterans—and their
spouses, families, and friends.
        MyVetwork, located at, is a free service that seeks to connect current
and veterans military personnel both online and offline.
        “What sets MyVetwork apart from social networks like MySpace and Facebook is its
capability, by means of a unique algorithmic platform customized specifically for the military, to
match individuals according to skills, interests, preferences, values, and other pre-selected categories,”
said John Campbell, a former Marine rifle platoon commander in Vietnam in 1968 who spearheaded
the new software.
        “The platform is designed so that users can easily find like-minded service members and/or
families with whom to interact in order to exchange critical information and provide mutual support,”
he said.
        Specific objectives of MyVetwork are two-fold: 1) to provide a means for interaction and
support that encourages lighthearted, entertaining communication as well as deep, meaningful
connections that can be long-lasting; and 2) to create an interactive exchange where a broad variety of
experts can provide jobs and career advice, information about educational opportunities, resources
about health care, and access to coaching and mentoring services.

New Prosthetic
Advocate at VACO

         A newly implemented Prosthetics Patient Advocate position was recently filled at VA Central
Office in Washington, DC, to monitor and respond to the IRIS web-based inquiry system.
         Quinton Walker assumed the position in late spring.
         IRIS (Inquiry Routing & Information System) is a communication tool used by veterans and
the general public to obtain information pertaining to different applications and services available. It
can also be used as a sounding board if veterans feel wronged by their local Prosthetics and Sensory
Aids Department.
         The target timeline for response to inquiries is now five business days although most are being
answered the same day the inquiry was received, provided that more information was not requested.
         Veterans, their families, and the general public can access IRIS through the VA Prosthetics and
Sensory Aids website, and then by clicking on the “Contact VA” icon
at the top right of the page.
         “I recommend taking a look at the site frequently since it is constantly being updated with new
information that will serve to benefit those who would like to know about prosthetics within VA,” said
Walker. “This is another way our Prosthetics and Sensory Aids staff are trying to reach out to our

Letters to the Editor
Corrections and Additions

       The Summer issue of the Bulletin (“BVA Mourns Loss of Loyal Servants,” p. 8) stated
inaccurately that General and Sheila Weeks had a son named William. The latter is actually a grandson

and the couple had two sons instead of the reported three. General also passed away on August 24,
2008 and not August 28 as stated.
       For space reasons in the Summer issue, the Bulletin omitted the fact that General was also a
member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2017 and part of its Honor Guard for 30 years, a
commitment that Sheila indicated was very near and dear to General.
       A space problem also prevented us from listing the eight BVA members from the Gem State
Regional Group who won 26 medals at the VA Golden Age Games in Indianapolis last August. Led by
Coach Val Duffy, the blinded veteran “Spudinators” consisted of Bob Addington, Marvin Hitchcock,
Jack Kesgard, Ken Kraft, Art Motz, Jim Near, Bob Schaney, and Al Sedivy.
       The Bulletin regrets the errors and omissions.

                                                                          Stuart Nelson
                                                                          Bulletin Editor

Convention Mexican Fiesta

       It was our distinct pleasure and honor to have BVA in our post home for the Mexican Fiesta
during your convention week in Phoenix.
       We were all very humbled by the experience and were especially moved by the presence of the
veterans who had served in Iraq. It is with great pleasure that I inform you that the entire event was
donated by the American Legion Post 41 family. We thank you for allowing us the pleasure of hosting
you and for the obvious good work your organization is doing for our veterans.

                                                                          Robert P. Hernandez
                                                                          Commander, Post 41
                                                                          The American Legion
                                                                          Phoenix, AZ

In Remembrance
The Blinded Veterans Association deeply regrets the deaths of the following blinded veterans.

Alabama R.G.
Leo E. DuBose

Cape Cod Island R.G.
Robert Sundberg

Central California R.G.
Charles A. Parman

Florida R.G.
John P. Campbell
Robert N. Lattomus
George W. Tye

Georgia R.G.
Eddie Campbell
Frederick L. Merritt
Oree Rich

Greater Houston R.G.
Robert S. Earle
Arthur Marshall
Sullivan Sherman

Illinois R.G.
Jack E. Ambroise
Theodore Burzak

Indiana R.G.
Paul M. Castiglione

Kansas R.G.
Jeremiah F. Kennedy
Charles Taylor

Kentuckiana R.G.
Andrew A. Strothman

Louisiana R.G.
Winford Hooker

Maine R.G.
Luigi A. Battista
Robert G. Gelinas
Richard L. Shaw
Frederick J. Temple

Massachusetts R.G.
Arthur Maloof

Mid-Atlantic R.G.
William R. Davis

Minnesota R.G.
John S. Marton

Mississippi R.G.
Charles R. Newell

Mountain States R.G.
Donald A. Ford

Charles Kincaid
Robert W. White

New Jersey R.G.
John DePaola
Robert Schmelzer

New York R.G.
Frederick Gorman
Emil E. Krentz
James W. McKernan
Eugene DeSimone

North Carolina R.G.
John N. Garrison III
Colon L. Gerringer

North Texas R.G.
Dan Pelton
Harold L. Robertson
C.L. Tillison

Ohio R.G.
Warren Dale Koblenzer
Ivars Pakulis
Washington Thomas
James E. Trent
Eugene P. Van Wettering
Paul Wadsworth

Oklahoma R.G.
Billy Croll
Cecil E. Roth
Jerry V. Wilson

Pennsylvania R.G.
Charles I. Tighe

Puerto Rico R.G.
Jose Leon Arroyo
Rafael F. Tufino

R.I./SE Mass. R.G.
Robert Doherty

Rio Grande R.G.
Francisco A. Barraza
Juan Hernandez

David Ramirez
Amador Villalobos

Rocky Mountain R.G.
Kathleen M. Knight
John B. Thornton

San Diego R.G.
Wilbur G. Blink

South Texas R.G.
Donald D. Engle
Jack F. Miner
Irene Slagle
George F. Valenta

Southern California R.G.
Anielo Izzo

Washington R.G.
Thomas S. Carlisle
Annabel Watkins

Final Thought
         As is true in many organizations, a few individuals behind the scenes and away from the
limelight make invaluable, often heroic contributions to BVA.
         John Lynch was simultaneously a member of the Association’s Investment Fund Board of
Trustees and the Kathern F. Gruber Scholarship Committee for more than 15 years. He helped
establish BVA’s investment fund in the early 1990s and was a major player in its overall success.
         John and his wife, Teresa, traveled to BVA National Headquarters from their home in Maine
earlier this year upon his retirement. They accepted a plaque of appreciation from Norman Jones and
the full Board of Directors at the mid-winter meetings.


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