Old Southwest Says “Bienvenida”

Preparations are in high gear at BVA National Headquarters and among regional groups across the country as blinded veterans and their families anticipate their late summer excursion to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the BVA 62nd National Convention August 14-18.
Route 66 is also known as The Main Street of America.  A portion of the road that passes through Albuquerque is now known as 'Historic Route 66.' This road carried countless American migrants westward during the Great Depression. Photo courtesy of MarbleStreetStudio.com.

Route 66 is also known as The Main Street of America.  A portion of the road that passes through Albuquerque is now known as "Historic Route 66." This road carried countless American migrants westward during the Great Depression. Photo courtesy of MarbleStreetStudio.com.

A Glance at the Week


In addition to the usual business meetings, meals, and social functions, convention attendees should be enticed by a number of never-before-tried activities that, at press time, are nearly all finalized.

The week kicks off in the late afternoon Monday, August 13, with the opening of the Exhibit Hall.

An optional tour to Jamez Mountain Trail/Los Alamos/Chimayo follows early the next morning, courtesy of extraordinary legwork accomplished by the New Mexico Regional Group. The tour is designed for those wishing to see and experience more of New Mexico than simply Albuquerque. For more information or to make arrangements to participate in the tour, convention attendees may contract directly with Destination Southwest, a private agent, at 505-766-9068. More information is also on the BVA website and included in the pre-registration package. Please keep foremost in mind that participation will add at least one extra night to the stay in addition to the cost of the day trip.

The traditional National President’s Reception that same evening will feature introductions of a variety of invited guests and dignitaries, accompanied by the usual assortment of finger foods and beverages.

Wednesday morning brings the opening business session, highlighted this year by the presence of the Santa Ana Pueblo Disabled Veterans Color Guard and an Eagle dance performance. VA Secretary R. James Nicholson has agreed to present the keynote address for the convention immediately following the flag ceremony and traditional dance.

Guests and spouses not participating in the regularly scheduled official business meetings may wish to check out a fun and informative Wednesday afternoon lecture by Joe Dan Lowry, curator of the Albuquerque Turquoise Museum. The presentation promises to appeal to all ages and levels of interest, covering the science and geology of turquoise, including tips and advice on how to buy the precious gemstone. Turquoise has been prized for centuries as a medical wonder, ornament, and religious symbol.

An actual visit to the Turquoise Museum is scheduled as part of the Meet Albuquerque Tour offered on Thursday. The tour also includes a stop at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, a city landmark dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of Pueblo Indian culture, history, and art.

From the Cultural Center the tour heads for Old Town, the original center of Albuquerque founded in 1706. Old Town includes the San Felipe de Neri Church and many historic buildings that form an architectural record of the city’s unique past. The additional buildings located just off the plaza in Old Town include the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, the National Atomic Museum, and the Turquoise Museum. Coaches will shuttle convention attendees from Old Town to these four locations.

From Thursday through Saturday, a Native American Arts and Crafts Fair will occur at Civic Plaza, located across the street from the Hyatt Regency. The unique event has been arranged by the New Mexico Regional Group and sponsored by the Santo Domingo Pueblo’s Disabled Native American Veterans Organization in special recognition of the 62nd National Convention’s presence in Albuquerque. The fair will consist of New Mexico’s finest traditional and contemporary Indian turquoise and silver jewelry, necklaces, earrings, pottery, drums, and other crafts. Above all, convention attendees will be granted the opportunity to personally meet and enjoy the extraordinary talent of the artists and craftsmen of New Mexico’s pueblos and reservations.

A busier than usual Friday morning BVA Forum will also be a highlight of the week. On hand as the first speaker will be a representative of the Doheny Eye Institute of the University of Southern California to address the latest in vision research and its applications, especially in the area of retinal implants. The presentation is being arranged by Dr. Steven Ryan, president of both Doheny and the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research. Dr. Joe Maino, Chief of Optometry at the Kansas City VA Medical Center, will then discuss advances in low-vision optometry, followed by a presentation by Dr. Alston C. Lundgren, M.D. on what has become an innovative and revolutionary treatment for Macular Degeneration.

The annual Father Carroll Memorial Luncheon that afternoon will feature as guest speaker Bob Woodruff of ABC News. Woodruff joined ABC in 1996 and was named co-anchor of the network’s “World News Tonight” in December 2005. Less than two months later, Woodruff was in Iraq reporting on the activities of U.S. and Iraqi security forces when he was seriously injured by a roadside bomb that struck his vehicle near the city of Taji. He returned to ABC 13 months later with his first on-air report, “To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports.” The hour-long documentary chronicled the traumatic brain injury and painstaking recovery he and thousands of American service personnel have experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan.

District Caucuses follow the luncheon. A Friday evening Operation Peer Support Barbecue honoring recently blinded OIF and OEF military personnel will round out the day’s activities.

Following Saturday’s Closing Business Session and lunch, BVA members are encouraged to attend both a Legislative Update given by Tom Zampieri and a Field Service Program Forummoderated by Stephen Matthews. The two activities, normally scheduled on Friday morning, were moved to Saturday afternoon to accommodate the Friday guests. The Awards Reception, Banquet, Auxiliary Raffle Drawing, and National Headquarters Sweepstakes Drawing will occur, as is customary, on Saturday evening.

Flight Reservations

BVA recommends the following airline carriers to reach Albuquerque:

AMERICAN AIRLINES: Nonstop service to Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth with connections to Albuquerque. A 5 percent discount is available on American Airlines one-world tickets only. Please state Booking Code A2187AE when making reservations, which should be arranged more than 30 days prior to departure. Call 800-433-1790 for information and reservations.

FRONTIER AIRLINES: Nonstop service to Denver with connections to Albuquerque. The Meeting Identification Number is 98VRXT to receive a 10 percent discount on all published round trip tickets. Call for reservations at 800-908-9068 or go to www.frontierairlines.com.

NORTHWEST AIRLINES: Nonstop service to Minneapolis-St. Paul with connections to Albuquerque. Northwest offers 5 percent off lowest published fares and 7 percent off lowest published fare if ticket is purchased at least 30 days in advance of scheduled departure. Certain routes may qualify for an even greater percentage discount. For reservations, call 800-328-1111. The Booking Code is NMB4P.

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES: No file number exists for Southwest. Although this carrier no longer offers travel contracts for large groups, the rates are very competitive and discounts are frequently available. At press time, Southwest offered a senior fare of $129 one way from any location in the continental United States. Please call 800-435-9792 or 800-433-5368. Reservations can also be made online at www.southwest.com.

Ground Transportation

The Hyatt Regency is located 5.5 miles, or approximately 10 minutes, from the Albuquerque International Airport (officially called Albuquerque International Sunport with airport code ABQ). Although the hotel does not offer a complimentary shuttle, Sunport Shuttle is an inexpensive and efficient mode of ground transportation. A ride to the Regency Hyatt costs $9.00 one way or $16.00 round trip on Sunport Shuttle.

The Sunport Shuttle check-in counter is located inside the airport on the baggage claim level across from Southwest Airlines’ Baggage Carousel 3. For more information, call 505-883-4966 or go to www.sunportshuttle.com.

A second option, still relatively inexpensive, is a service called Airport Shuttle. For more information, call 505-765-1234.
A one-way trip by taxi to the hotel will cost approximately $35.

Hyatt Regency Highlights

The Hyatt Regency Albuquerque is the only four-diamond hotel in Albuquerque. The hotel is conveniently located in the heart of downtown among a variety of restaurants, theaters, bars, and clubs. Several unique retail shopping outlets and galleries are located nearby

Each guest room features basic amenities such as a coffee maker, iron and ironing board, in-room movies, and voice mail, as well as standard high-speed Internet access and daily newspaper delivery. The Hyatt has two dining facilities, McGrath’s and Bolo’s Salon.

Reservations are secured by calling toll free Reservations 800-233-1234, or through the hotel website,www.hyattregency/albuquerque. Individuals making reservations must remember to state their affiliation with the Blinded Veterans Association in order to receive the negotiated $70.00 rate. Participants are urged to reserve rooms as far in advance as possible with July 12, 2007 being the final date to secure the convention rate.

Convention Pre-Registration

The BVA Board of Directors has again determined that pre-registration packets should be sent to each active member of the Association. The packets were mailed in mid-May. BVA members or other individuals interested in attending the convention who did not yet receive a packet should call me, Christina Hitchcock, at 800-669-7079.

The pre-registration fee is $90 for adults and $55 for each child 12 years old and younger if the registration form reaches BVA National Headquarters by Tuesday, July 31. After that date, the respective fees become $100 and $65.

Pre-registration includes completion of the form in the official convention packet. Mail the form, along with a check, money order (payable to BVA National Convention), or credit card information (Visa, MasterCard or Discover only) in the self-addressed envelope provided. You may also visit the BVA website to download the registration package and additional registration forms.

Pre-registered attendees may later discover that they cannot attend the convention. Such individuals can receive a full refund if they notify BVA National Headquarters no later than noon on July 31. The only exceptions to this policy will be medical emergencies.

Remember These Dates


Thursday, July 12 – Deadline for receipt of hotel reservation form or phoning in reservations at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Hotel.

Tuesday, July 31 – Deadline for mailing pre-registration fees to BVA National Headquarters.

Wednesday, August 1 – Deadline for cancellation of pre-registration in order to receive a full refund.

Sculptor, BVA Member Donates Valued Piece


Michael Naranjo, world-renowned sculptor and a member of the New Mexico Regional Group, has donated “Freedom Eagle” to support the BVA 62nd National Convention. The sculpture will be sold and the proceeds donated to activities of the convention that may not otherwise be possible.Freedom Eagle Sculpture

“This is a donation with no strings attached,” said Michael, who is totally blind. “I wish to simply help out my fellow veterans and support this monumental occasion here in my home state.”

“Freedom Eagle,” which measures 12.5 inches high, 11 inches wide, and seven inches in diameter, is the second in a series of ten produced by the sculptor, who always retains for himself the last in a series. The piece retails for $3,900.

Michael, a former recipient of BVA’s Melvin J. Maas Award for Professional Achievement (1972), was raised in Santa Clara Pueblo in northern New Mexico. He was drafted into the Army in June 1967 and went to Vietnam shortly thereafter with the 9th InfantryDivision. During an ambush in the Mekong Delta in January 1968, he was wounded by a grenade explosion that left him totally blind.

Following his discharge, Michael attended the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center in Palo Alto. During his stay, he received tools for carving. Three months later, he was sculpting, holding his first show in March 1969 at the Albuquerque VA Medical Center.

A long series of honors and awards from government officials began in 1971 when Michael served on the Board of the New Mexico State Arts Commission. He presented “Dance of the Eagle” to President Richard Nixon at the White House in 1973. He also received the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Sculpture in 1976. In 1979 he received the Outstanding Vietnam Veteran Award from President Jimmy Carter.

The New Mexico Vietnam Veterans Association presented Michael with the Profiles in Courage Award in 1982 while the American Indian Resources Institute honored him with its Distinguished Achievement Award in 1990. In 1996, President Bill Clinton named him to the Board of Trustees of the Institute of American Indian and Alaskan Native Cultures and Art Development.

Michael creates his sculptures entirely by touch and experiences the art of others in the same way. Many of his pieces have appeared on display at BVA national conventions, VA creative arts festivals, a blinded veteran art exhibit held in Chicago, and at the 50th anniversary celebration of VA’s Blind Rehabilitation Service at VA Central Office in 1998.

The accompanying photo of Freedom Eagle was taken by Dan Barsotti and made available to BVA courtesy of Michael and Laurie Naranjo.

Sweepstakes Update


As of May 16, the sweepstakes total revenue stood at $17,285 and the total prize pool was valued at approximately $7,500. After mailing expenses associated with distributing tickets, half of the funds generated through the sweepstakes will be awarded as prizes and the other half will be used to help finance the convention.

Continue sending the tickets to BVA National Headquarters! The larger the donations, the greater will be the value of the winnings to the four individuals whose tickets will be randomly selected at the convention’s Awards Banquet. For additional tickets, contact Keleeba Scott at 800-669-7079. The final deadline for returning the completed tickets is Tuesday, July 31.

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