BVA Leadership, Members Left to Ponder Changes Following 66th National Convention
Altogether numbering some 350 attendees, the 180
veterans and their family members, 42 exhibitors, a couple of dozen
presenters, and the Association’s staff took in five days of camaraderie
with new and old friends, official business meetings featuring
dignitaries and scholars, a bowling night, Las Vegas gaming,
Stratosphere jumps, fine dining, motivational and instructional training
sessions, and much, much more.
Left to right, BVA’s reliable cadre of volunteers for annual President’s
Reception consisted of Wendy Gore, St. George, Utah;
Volunteer Coordinator Margarine Beaman; Frances Bautista, 99th Civil
Engineer Squad at nearby Nellis Air Force Base; and Air Force Master
Sergeant Rudy Moreno, 820th Red Horse Squadron at Nellis.
Amid the hustle and bustle of BVA 66th National Convention activity
August 16-20, complimented by the scores of non-BVA guests at the
immense Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, blinded veterans in a sense
stared at a stark reality early in the convention week— that important
changes would soon be implemented by virtue of the opinions they
expressed and the votes they cast in Las Vegas.
“I have mentioned many times recently that change is a good thing
when it brings new experience, new leadership, new goals, and new
opportunities,” said outgoing National President Dr. Roy Kekahuna. “This
convention most certainly provided us a point from which to launch
those changes, which will hopefully make us more proactive as an
Major changes effected at the convention included two new bylaw
resolutions, passed with little or new opposition in both the
established Committee and by the full membership during the Closing
Business Session. The resolutions provide the National Board of
Directors with the authority to set the dues structure and outlined a
change in the structure effective January 1, 2012.
As of the Saturday evening Awards Banquet swearing-in of National
Officers by Neil Appleby, all but three of the 11 National Board of
Director positions have new names next to them. Directors of Districts
1, 3, and 5 represented by David VanLoan, Joe Parker, and Dr. George
Stocking, respectively, remained while the following were either elected
or appointed to their new positions: Sam Huhn, National President; Mark
Cornell, National Vice President; Robert “Dale” Stamper, National
Secretary; Roy Young, National Treasurer; Freddie Edwards, Director
District 2 (Interim); Robert Mower, Director District 4 (Interim); and
Ronald Anderson, Director District 6 (Interim).
Dr. Roy Kekahuna assumed by protocol his new position on the Board as
Immediate Past National President. Joe Burns will remain as an Honorary
Member of the Board of Directors as a consultant on financial matters.
After 32 years of service as BVA’s National Chaplain, the Reverend
Neftali Sanchez turned over the reins to the Reverend Clyde Jackson of
Midlothian, Virginia. Charles Davis of Houston, Texas, will serve as the
upcoming year’s National Sergeant-at-Arms.
Retiring BVA National Chaplain Neftali Sanchez, right, seated at Father
Carroll Luncheon head table with sister Nohemi Marquez.
offered invocations at more than 30 of the traditional Carroll
luncheons during his tenure.
Following tributes to retiring Executive Director Tom Miller, a BVA
employee for 25 years and the Association’s Executive Director for 17 of
those years, incoming National President Sam Huhn introduced Steven
Beres as the new Executive Director, effective January 1, 2012. Steve is
a service-connected blinded veteran from Operation Enduring Freedom
(Afghanistan) and has most recently served as BVA National Secretary. He
comes to BVA following employment at the VA Visual Impairment Services
Outpatient Rehabilitation Clinic in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Hosted by the Southern Nevada Regional Group and chaired by National
President Kekahuna, the convention, despite all of the change, still
featured many of its traditional components.
Now in its sixth year of implementation at a BVA national convention,
the Association’s Operation Peer Support initiative brought 12 recently
blinded service members, including two from the United Kingdom, and a
selected companion to the event. Seven additional participants who had
attended a previous convention paid their own way to attend this year.
Operation Peer Support brings together veterans of recent conflicts
with those who have lost their sight in Vietnam, Korea, or during World
War II. The program’s objective is to provide newly blinded veterans, or
service members if they have not yet been discharged, with examples of
and opportunities to interact with men and women who have led happy and
prosperous lives despite their blindness.
Wednesday’s Opening Business Session included a keynote address by
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki and remarks by
Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1), Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), and
Representative Joe Heck (D-NV-3). The Friday Father Carroll Luncheon
audience was favored by an address by Dr. Gregory Goodrich, Supervisory
Research Psychologist at the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center in Palo
Alto. The Friday Forum had its usual array of lecturers on topics
relating to advances in technology and rehabilitation. Convention
delegates and other member attendees approved 16 resolutions recommended
by the Bylaws and Resolutions Committee.
BVA Southern Arizona Regional Group member Dan Standage, left,
prestigious Melvin J. Maas Award from National President Dr. Roy
Kekahuna at Convention Awards Banquet August 20.
Following scheduled activities, some conventioneers found an escape
on historic Fremont Street, a canopied four blocks of entertainment and
shops just outside the Golden Nugget. Others attended the city’s
renowned shows via city buses to The Strip while still others immersed
themselves in the hotel casino or ventured off to experience still
another new buffet. At some point, the majority flocked to the Aloha
Room, where they were greeted by hosts Sam and Anita Ayoob.
Also running concurrently with BVA’s meetings in the Golden Nugget
was the first annual Department of Defense-VA Eye Care Conference,
planned and organized by the Vision Center of Excellence. Approximately
100 ophthalmologists, optometrists, and vision researchers met to
discuss vision injuries, vision technology, and current research. Topics
at the conference also centered on improving the tracking and treatment
of combat injuries affecting vision. The conference was so much a
success that others in the future, also in concert with BVA conventions,
are now in the planning stage.
BVA’s 67th National Convention will be held August 21-25 at the San
Luis Resort, Spa, & Conference Center in Galveston, Texas. Details
are forthcoming in BVA quarterly publication, the BVA Bulletin.