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 (