AT&T and Aira Partnership Enabled Blinded Veterans to Fully Participate During Monday Night Football (11/20/2018) 

AT&T and Aira Partnership Enabled Blinded Veterans to Fully Participate During Monday Night Football

By. Thomas Zampieri
On November 5 a partnership between the NFL Network, Dallas Cowboys, AT&T, and Aira enabled two members of the Blinded Veterans Association participate in the Dallas Cowboys Military and Veterans appreciation game on Monday Night Football. Aira provided the missing piece for visually impaired fans, the ability to understand what is happening on the field in realtime. This occurs through the transformative remote assistive technology that connects the blind with a network of certified agents via wearable smart glasses. Agents, serving as visual interpreters for the blind, help users accomplish a wide range of daily tasks and activities - from navigating busy streets to recognizing faces and literally traveling the world. Aira was used throughout various aspects of the game experience, like watching the National Anthem, opening game activities, viewing the game, as well as half-time show. Aira even assisted with locating seats, navigating the concessions area, and enjoy other amenities sighted visitors to AT&T Stadium take for granted.


The Blinded Veterans Association applauds the Cowboys and AT&T efforts to include blind and visually impaired Veterans partake in the full fan experience by becoming an Aira Access partner. This commitment was kicked off by enabling Retired Army Major Thomas Zampieri and Captain Timothy Hornik being the first Aira Explorers and BVA members test out Aira Access at the stadium. Timothy remarked, “far too long us blind NFL fans relied on our partners and neighbors to describe even the most basic elements of the game. AT&T, through their Aira Access partnership finally enabled me to fully enjoy the amazing fan experience they make possible for each and every home game.”

A media event occurred on Thursday, November 15th, which captured  the outcomes from this event. A combination of video footage of Tom and Tim using Aira throughout the game and comments from representatives of Aira and the AT&T demonstrated the importance of Aira in making the world more inclusive for blind and visually impaired Veterans. The video footage was released through social media accounts and news articles by the NFL, AT&T, Aira, and the Blinded Veterans Association.

BVA seeks to help blinded veterans look ahead to the possibilities and opportunities that their lives still present to them. This is done through social activities, counseling, educational forums regarding benefits and rehabilitation, and attending recreational events, updates on vision research and technology. Support is established with both veterans of earlier conflicts and their current military service members returning with penetrating and Traumatic Brain Injury visual disorders.  

            BVA again appreciates the strong support from AT&T, AIRA, and with the Dallas Cowboys NFL staff for making this possible. For more information about the trek and the day’s activities onsite, please visit  BVA is a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization, and we will celebrate 74 years of continuous service on March 28, 2019 which is national Blinded Veterans Day to honor our nations blinded veterans and their families.


 Blinded Veterans Unite at 14th Annual Major Soltes Golf Event (11/20/2018) 

Blinded Veterans Unite at 14th Annual Major Charles Soltes Memorial Golf Event

Three blinded American veterans and other local California area blinded BVA members will share rehabilitation experiences that tell the story of their personal adjustment to blindness at the 14th Annual Major Charles Robert Soltes Memorial Golf Tournament in Irvine, California on Monday, October 8, 2018. The BVA members will join golfers for the annual competition to honor Major Charles Soltes at the Oak Creek Golf Club.

In October 2004, Major Soltes became the first U.S. Army optometrist-soldier killed in action while serving on active duty in Iraq.

The key note speaker for the golf event is former US Navy Petty Officer, Lonnie Bedwell. Bedwell was critically injured in a hunting accident in 1997 that took his sight instantly. However, it didn’t stop him from raising three daughters as a single father and becoming a renowned adventure sports athlete. He has kayaked the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, the Zambezi River in Africa, and the Gauley River in West Virginia – some of the most challenging stretches of whitewater in the world. He was named a 2015 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. He has climbed notable peaks such as Mt. Kilimanjaro, he downhill skis, and volunteers in his hometown in southern Indiana as well performing roofing, construction and supporting veteran related nonprofits and local schools.

Lonnie is an advocate for blind/visually impaired individuals, veterans, and anyone facing adversity in their life. He is the author of the award-winning book 226: How I Became the First Blind Person to Kayak the Grand Canyon and shares his passion for adventure and overcoming obstacles with audiences around the country as a motivational speaker. Lonnie recently lead a team of four other blinded veterans on a historic 226 mile kayaking adventure through the Grand Canyon Sept 1 to Sept 12th.

The participants will spend time together with the golfers in activities during the golf event on Monday. The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) is a non-profit Veterans Service Organization that uses funds raised at the golf tournament for its Operation Peer Support (OPS) initiative, which supports various events during the year. OPS bring together Gulf War I and Gulf War II era blinded veterans to share their experiences, and also participate in various sports events throughout the year.

The BVA veterans taking part this year include; Navy veteran Lonnie Bedwell and Marine Corps veteran Carlos Pere who is president of Florida Regional Group BVA. Maj Thomas Zampieri (Ret.) is Vice President BVA. There are 5,000 men and women in the U.S. who have been affected by penetrating eye injuries, with an estimated 38,000 wounded in the VA system with suspected TBI vision system impairments. The BVA was organized March 28, 1945. Its motto is “blinded veterans helping blinded veterans.” The organization connects veterans and their families to each other ( Information about the tournament (

 BVA's 73rd National Convention A Success (11/20/2018) 

BVA's 73rd National Convention A Success


Alexandria, Va. - The 2018 National Convention concluded 17 August on a positive note. The Convention focused on technology for the visually impaired with remarkable presentations and panels and 50 exhibits of the latest in technology. The Blinded Veterans Association’s National Convention wrapped up with the election of National Officers.

“We appreciate the opportunity to provide a forum for our members and veteran affairs leaders. It’s great to bring so many important topics and experts together in one Conference,” said Joe Parker, President of BVA. “The BVA National Convention is a welcome chance for networking and seeing the latest in technology, and a unique opportunity to hear directly from some knowledgeable and entertaining speakers.”

A record number of vendors were present to bring blind veterans closer to the prosthetic devices that can improve the quality of their daily lives. Two of the largest convention supporters, Aira and ORCAM, were present and displayed their latest head mount devices for mobility (Aira) and reading and identification eye wear (ORCAM).

Thursday started with some more informational seminars, followed by the “Father Carroll Luncheon.” The guest speaker, Sharon Givannazzo, President and CEO, World Blind Services, spoke about overcoming obstacles in a sighted world. The following were elected or reelected as National Officers: President Joe Parker.Vice President Tom Zampieri. Secretary Joe McNeil and Treasurer Danny Wallace.

Delegates voted to reduce membership dues to $25, establish a council of highly experienced corporate leaders to mentor and advise the National Board of Directors and updated the bylaws by replacing the word “Comptroller” with “Executive Director” since the Comptroller position has been eliminated.

The convention closed with the Installation Banquet where the winners of the Melvin J. Maas, Irving Diener, and David L. Schnair awards were announced. John Linder from Honolulu, Hawaii received BVA’s highest honor for 2018, the Melvin J. Maas Award for Professional Achievement. The Irving Diener Award, which recognizes individual contribution to a BVA regional group or the national organization went to Floyd Everett of the Georgia Regional Group. The Irving Diener Award is the second most prestigious award which BVA presents. The award seeks to honor those who have made an outstanding commitment to their BVA regional group and the organization as a whole rather than for his/her personal achievement in rehabilitation or employment. Anthony Ricci, from N. Providence, Rhode Island, received the David L. Schair Award for outstanding services as a BVA volunteer.

The Regional Gold Gavel Award went to the Massachusetts Regional Group. The gold gavel recognizes the group with the greatest numerical increase. The Silver gavel Award recipient was the White River Regional Group. The silver gavel goes to the Group with the largest percentile increase. The Florida Regional Group received the Bronze Gavel Award for the highest percent of individuals moved from Non-member status to life membership status. Also, of note, the BVA National Auxiliary presented a new Charter to the Emerald Coast Regional Group Auxiliary.

BVA looks forward to seeing everyone at the 2019 National Convention will be in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 12-16 August.

 Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation Reading of the Fallen (8/6/2018) 




Washington, DC – The Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation will pay special tribute to the 7,700 Missing in Action (MIA) who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the Korean War with a remembrance ceremony with the “Reading of the Fallen”. This special event is open to the general public who will also have the opportunity to read names of the missing along with family members of the MIAs. This event will take place at the National Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, August 11, 2016 at 9:00AM with a short opening ceremony followed by the Reading of the Fallen.


Who:               Families of the Missing in Action

                        Defense Attache, and Staff, Embassy of the Republic of Korea

                        Members of Congress

                        Korean Community

                        Korean War Veterans

                        General Public          


Where:           National Korean War Veterans Memorial

Henry Bacon Drive (Next to the Lincoln Memorial)

Washington, DC


When:             Saturday, August 11, 2018


Time:              Opening Ceremony – 9:00AM

                        Reading of the Fallen MIAs – 9:20AM – 6:00PM

The purpose of the reading of the MIA names is to continue the Foundation's mission of educating the world about the Korean War and its impact to society, freedom and democracy. Four years ago, the Foundation started with a three day event reading of all of the American KIAs (36,574).

The following year, the Foundation honored the KIA KATUSAs (nearly 8,000) for their service with American Forces during the Korean War.

Last year, we honored the UN Forces that were killed in action and Embassy Attaches/Ambassadors were invited to participate in reading the names of their country's fallen heroes.

This year to coincide with the Department of Defense' Department of POW/MIA Accounting Agency's annual update to Korean War POW/MIA families and the recent release of 55 containers of remains from North Korea, the Foundation is sponsoring an event to allow family members and others to read the names of 7,700 MIAs.

 Blinded Veterans to Kayak Colorado River (8/6/2018) 

Five Blinded Veterans To Kayak Colorado River 226 miles September 1- 12th 2018


Alexandria, Va. -  Five members of the Congressionally Chartered Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) are joining together for first ever attempt of group of blinded veterans kayaking the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon this September 31 days from now they start. Under the umbrella of Operation Peer Support (OPS) program for Gulf War I and Gulf War II era veterans, four army veterans and one Navy veteran they will spend a week of September 2-11, 2018 kayaking some of the most difficult water rapids in the United States together. For over seven months they have been in training with experts from the non-profit Team River Runner that promotes kayaking and team water recreational programs for disabled veterans.

              Team River Runner (TRR) is an adaptive paddling adventure program for wounded and disabled veterans, their family members, and other non- military disabled paddlers in communities across the nation. TRR began service to the returning wounded at Walter Reed Military Medical Center in 2004, and since their formation, has put over 10,000 veterans into kayaks in more than 60 Chapters nationwide.

              The team is led by Dave Robey, a retired Navy Captain and the Program Director of TRR and blinded Navy veteran Lonnie Bedwell from BVA. Lonnie said “These veterans are demonstrating to the public their accomplishments to inspire others with disabilities to continue to participate in activities."

               Navy Desert Storm veteran Lonnie Bedwell is the groups team coordinator, he was first blinded veteran in history in 2013 and then again in 2015 Lonnie kayaked the Grand Canyon 222 miles. Lonnie said “increased cooperation and understanding between these veterans constantly builds confidence. In addition, participants have built life -long friendships, share knowledge of blind and visually impaired advances and exchange insights and personal experiences regarding their own adjustments to blindness.” Lonnie is nationally known as he has kayaked the Grand Canyon three times now, with this fourth journey planned this September. He kayaked the Upper Gauley and Zambezi Rivers, both Class V world renowned rivers. He is Instructional Coordinator of many of TRR's Outtasight and Vision Team Clinics.  For more information, please contact Lonnie Bedwell at 812-648-2373.