Blind Veterans UK to Host U.S. Veterans 20-27 May in United Kingdom


Four American combat blinded veterans from the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) will share knowledge, insights, and friendship with five British blinded comrades and two South African war blinded in the United Kingdom. The exchange will take place in Manchester, England and Llandudno, Wales, 20-27 May. Known as Project Gemini, the exchange is now in its eighth year.


Joining this year’s exchange, as part of the week activities, will be two American internationally known ophthalmologists who will be guest speakers at a second public “Life Beyond Sight Loss” seminar on Wednesday, May 23 being hosted at the University of Manchester. They will discuss veterans’ rehabilitation, eye trauma, Traumatic Brain Injuries vision conditions, and vision trauma research as special Project Gemini initiative.


Blind Veterans UK's CEO Major General Nick Caplin (Ret. UK) strongly supports the growing focus of the exchange to include expert researchers in the Wednesday public TBI seminar. Joining this year’s exchange will be two Ophthalmologists, Dr. Randy Kardon neuro-ophthalmologist TBI researcher Iowa City VAMC, and professor at University Iowa, and Col. Robb Mazzoli MC (Ret. USA) the Director DOD Trauma Education for the Vision Center Excellence (VCE) as speakers for the four-hour public vision injury seminar, along with three UK vision researchers; Professor Stuart Allan, Research Domain Director, Neuroscience & Mental Health, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, The University of Manchester; Dr. Karla Greenberg, Clinical Director of March on Stress and King's Centre for Military Health Research, King's College London; Dr. Simon J. Clark, MRC Career Development Fellow, Division of Evolution and Genomic Sciences, The University of Manchester, UK.


Project Gemini was initiated in May 2011, named for the transatlantic cable that connects the United States and the United Kingdom, is a joint initiative between the nonprofit organizations BVA, Blind Veterans UK, and St. Dunstan's, South Africa. Expanding with the educational research to include training sessions with officials of the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, Moorfields Eye Research Center, and UK Defense military officials.


During the exchange, both groups of veterans will also share helpful hints about coping with blindness and the “war stories” that are part of their personal adjustment to blindness and subsequent rehabilitation. Participants from the US include Army SFC Scott Carruthers (Ret.), Vietnam War Era Specialist 5 Lawrence Carlin (Ret.), and Iraq War era veterans, Corporal Brian Harris (Ret.), and LTC.Ken Horn (Ret.). Maj. Tom Zampieri (Ret.), coordinator of the BVA OPS Committee Board of Director, will accompany the veterans.


The group will return Sunday, May 27 in conjunction with Memorial Day. Fitting that is a day we honor and remember the service men and women who have sacrificed their lives while serving in the military. Today, thanks to advances in medicine, more of our military service members' lives are being saved, but they are, nonetheless, forever changed. There is much more work to do. They survived various experiences serving during the Gulf War periods but were left with traumatic brain injuries and vision loss as result of their service.


The exchange will address the approach in treatments and policy goals between the countries in the areas of military eye trauma, traumatic brain injury, and vision research. It will further examine the common history with respect to vision rehabilitation programs for veterans from World War I to the present to recognize the U.S. WW I Centennial anniversary 1917-1918. Blind Veterans UK is national charity for visually impaired ex-servicemen and women celebrating 102 years of service to blind veterans and families. BVA’s was founded March 28, 1945 with group of World War II blinded www.bva.org


For more information contact Chet Curtis, (202)-371-8880, ext. 316 or ccurtis@bva.org