National Veterans Organization To Host Recently Blinded Veterans In Jacksonville


Six U.S. veterans from Gulf War I and Gulf War II will join some 140 additional veterans with vision loss and their families at the Blinded Veterans Association’s (BVA) 72nd National Convention at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront Hotel August 14-18.

The group will spend time together in BVA’s business meetings, recreational activities, educational seminars, group discussions, and visits to local attractions, including Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville for the August 14 contest pitting the Double-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp against the Mississippi Braves beginning at 7:05 p.m.

Participants will be honored as guests of BVA at its convention. The gathering of the veterans who have more recently lost their sight is made possible through an organizational initiative known as “Operation Peer Support,” guided by a committee that this year determined to bring the six aforementioned newly blinded veterans and seven additional veterans from the Vietnam or Gulf War Era who would not otherwise be able to attend. The latter seven veterans represent all of BVA’s geographic districts. The initiative’s traditional financial supporters are Allergan, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the Major Charles R. Soltes Memorial Golf Tournament.

The Operation Peer Support initiative began in early 2006 when generous corporations and individuals provided financial support to bring a small group of recently wounded personnel to BVA’s 61st convention in Buffalo, New York. The program has continued at subsequent meetings in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Phoenix, Arizona; Washington, DC; Las Vegas, Nevada; Galveston, Texas; Spokane, Washington; Reno, Nevada; Louisville, Kentucky; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

According to BVA National Officer Dr. Tom Zampieri, Director of District 6, the chief aim of Operation Peer Support is for recently blinded veterans to meet and gain strength from many of BVA’s longtime members, the annual convention serving as a means by which such exchange and mentoring begin to occur.

“Our desire is that strong relationships might be established between the members of BVA blinded in previous conflicts and those who have recently had a similar experience,” he said. “Physical and emotional isolation is a huge issue for those who have recently lost their sight, and perhaps only those who have gone through the experience themselves can truly understand the great challenges they are facing.”

All BVA members share a common bond as legally blind veterans. They resolve to help one another understand and receive the rightful benefits they earned through their service. The Association also represents the interests of its members before the legislative and executive branches of government, at the same time openly encouraging its constituents to participate in Department of Veterans Affairs’ blind rehabilitation programs.

For further information, call BVA at 800-669-7079 or visit the organization’s website, www.bva.org.