DAR Lauds Peter Link
BVA is not alone this year in its recent recognition of outstanding professional service by Peter Link, recently retired as the Region 5 Field Service Representative in Denver, Colorado. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) have been equally impressed by his accomplishments and dedicated service to veterans.
After nominating Peter to receive a Braille flag and then formally presenting the flag to him last December, Pam Merriam, DAR Colorado State Librarian and Regent of the Smoky Hill Trail Chapter, decided that Peter would also be a worthy nominee for the organization’s Outstanding Veteran Patient Volunteer Award. Candidates for the award are selected on a state, regional, and national level.
DAR Colorado State Regent Donna Bottini, left, and National Vice Chairman of DARS Service to Veterans Caroline Shulte present Peter Link with southwest division Outstanding Veteran Volunteer Patient Award on April 28 at Englewood, Colorado’s Inverness Hotel and Golf Course.
“Much to our delight, Peter won this award at the state level,” said Pam. “This means that he was the best nominee selected from 38 chapters in Colorado.”
After winning in Colorado, Peter’s nomination was then sent to a committee representing the southwest division, which would evaluate his volunteer service with nominees from Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.
“Because California is such a biggie with so many great people to choose from, we were immensely excited when Peter was also selected for the southwest division award,” said Pam.
Peter handled veterans benefits issues for BVA in 11 western states for more than 20 years. He is best known in BVA circles for his expertise in the area of claims. For additional biographical information on Peter Link, see the report on the Melvin J. Maas Award on pp. 17-18.
Kenny Adams Makes Houston Race Debut
High drama and excitement marked a special evening September 8 in Houston, Texas. This was made possible by adventurous BVA member and Operation Peer Support participant Kenny Adams, the generosity of former Indy race car driver Joey Truscelli, and the relentless work and preparation of the Greater Houston Regional Group.
Standing together before their memorable race, former Indy race car driver Joey Truscelli declares BVA member Kenny Adams a winner in life.
“A Salute to Our Troops and Kenny Adams,” attended live by some 8,000 spectators at Houston Raceway Park, consisted of an F-16 flyover, fireworks, the landing of a Coast Guard helicopter in the midst of several historic military vehicles, and a grand entry of 400 motorcycles with Kenny leading the way in a three-wheeler Harley Davidson. Kenny was severely injured and blinded totally in Afghanistan in 2004.
The program was videotaped and will air this fall on national syndicated prime time television as “One Good Turn with Joey T.” Heading up much of the effort was Regional Group President Roy Young and Secretary Dr. Ronald Anderson. All visually impaired and blinded veterans, along with one escort, were admitted free. Because the evening saluted all veterans, all active and inactive military personnel as well as employees/volunteers of the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center were also provided with free admission.
The event’s main attraction was a series of ten stock car races, the fifth of which featured Kenny and Joey Truscelli racing against blindfolded Texas Patriot Motorcycle Club President Terry McCormick and Kenny’s brother-in-law, Teddy Tovar.
“Kenny Adams was a winner before he ever stepped into the car!” Truscelli exclaimed through a microphone just prior to the race.
Once in the driver’s seat, Kenny prepared to take verbal instructions from Truscelli as to when and how he should turn, when to slow down, and how fast he could go. McCormick readied himself to receive similar instructions from Tovar, who also sat in the passenger seat to his right in the other car.
Race Grand Marshall Young Roy Young climbed to the top of the flagman’s stand, where he dropped the green flag to begin the race.
“The race was very close for at least four of the five laps of the race,” said Roy. “At the finish line, however, Kenny pulled ahead and won by just half a car length.”
Kenny received the winner’s trophy and then a congratulatory kiss from his wife, Katie. According to Roy, he was a gracious winner, thanking BVA National and the Greater Houston Regional Group as he addressed the crowd.
“The crowd continued to roar when Kenny spoke, just as it did when I told them to give Mark Cornell a big Houston welcome,” said Roy. “It was amazing how all of our other local service organizations and community came to support BVA and Kenny.”
The event allowed the regional group an opportunity to promote BVA and explain its services. In addition to a large booth complete with visual aides and prosthetic devices available for the spectators to visit, Roy explained BVA services between each of the ten individual races. Ron Anderson, Mark Cornell, and other BVA members and volunteers also promoted BVA one-on-one with spectators in the stands throughout the evening.
Field Service Program Adds Southern Rep
Persian Gulf War blinded veteran Bill Murphy has joined the BVA Field Service Program staff as the representative for Region III. Effective May 17, Bill began his tenure in the same office in Decatur, Georgia, that was occupied by his most immediate predecessors Don Cummings and Norman Jones.
“I enjoy being able to return to the type of work I did as a First Sergeant,” he said, “which amounted to helping people and ensuring the best type of service and facilities for those I was serving.”
Blinded by diabetic retinopathy in the early 1990s, Bill lost much of his vision in one eye within a three-month period. He now has only light perception in that eye but has stabilized with laser treatments the loss in the second eye. Bill joined BVA in 1996 as a member of the Georgia Regional Group.
“I’m just grateful for what I have left and that the loss now seems to be under control,” he said.
Bill was handpicked by his Wing Commander to serve as a First Sergeant for deployed Airborne Warning and Control Wing personnel in the Desert Shield/Desert Storm area of responsibility. Based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, he maintained relationships with Saudi and Coalition agencies to provide mess facilities, mail delivery, telephone, and morale and recreation services in both Riyadh and at various locations throughout the Kuwait Theater of Operations.
He also performed similar First Sergeant duties at assignments at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma and Castle Valley Air Force Base in California until late 1993. Following his discharge, he worked as a property manager, sold electronics, owned a premier body art studio in Northeast Atlanta, and performed volunteer work at the VA Medical Center. While volunteering, he learned of the BVA position opening from VIST Coordinator Kendel Prescott.
In his spare time, Bill still enjoys woodworking and is hoping to resume bowling and playing golf.
Ohio Vet Speaks Out
Ohio Regional Group Secretary Dave May participated in a telephone town hall meeting with Representative Charlie Wilson (D-OH-6) on July 3.
Arranged by the local Disabled American Veterans chapter, the meeting took place in Marietta, Ohio. Although a live audience was present, a radio station broadcast the proceedings and received questions from veterans calling in on a toll-free number.
Dave May, right with Representative Charlie Wilson
“Although I am not personally in Congressman Wilson’s district, our BVA regional group is indeed part of it,” said Dave. “I took advantage of an opportunity to specifically ask him if he would support H.R. 1240 (the VISTA bill), which would provide scholarships for those who would like to work for VA and teach blind rehab—to which he said he would support all legislation that would help veterans.”
Dave’s brief but meaningful contact with Wilson on a specific issue was welcomed by Director of Government Relations Tom Zampieri.
“This is great news and a perfect example of how BVA members can become more politically engaged with members of Congress on our legislative issues at local events,” he said. “If more of our members joined together with other organizations and took advantage of these opportunities back in their home districts, we would have more co-sponsors of our own legislation and more support for issues of importance to all disabled veterans.”
Tom suggests that BVA members ask their representatives if they have formed a “District Veterans Liaison Committee” and, if so, if a member of the BVA regional group can serve on the committee.
“Blinded Vets and Friends” Offers Help, Resources
BVA members Jerry Hogan and Paul Oberholtzer, South Texas Regional Group, have developed a website containing resources for blinded veterans and their associates.
The site’s url is www.blindedvetsandfriends.org and is not directly affiliated with BVA, VA, or any other organization. The site does frequently feature news and materials from such organizations. It also sends out its own newsletter to subscribers and offers three different chat rooms.
“Blinded Vets and Friends” is searching for board members to assist with decision making and additional individuals to serve as conference room moderators. Interested individuals should contact Jerry Hogan through the site.
South Texas Member Gets Bronze Star
World War II blinded veteran Martin Beilke, a 92-year-old South Texas Regional Group life member from Weslaco, Texas, recently received a Bronze Star for heroic actions performed more than 60 years ago.
A party to celebrate the medal and honor Martin’s service was given by the Love of Christ Lutheran Church in Weslaco and reported by Jennifer L. Bergham in the July 12 Monitor Newspaper(Rio Grande Valley).
The Bronze Star was presented to Martin because his vision was determined to have deteriorated as a result of his military service. Despite that, Martin survived five months at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands without suffering an injury.
BVA Again Honors Fallen
Blinded veterans throughout the country attended special services and presented ceremonial wreaths in tributes held on Memorial Day.
According to Dora Gabe, National President of the BVA Auxiliary, the day was especially meaningful this year for BVA’s Southern Arizona Regional Group.
I was pleased to participate in the wreath laying and to be present for the prayer offered by our own Delbert Linn,” she said.
The site of the Southern Arizona ceremony was the Veterans Monument adjacent to the Tucson VA Medical Center and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
In the Nation’s Capital, Tom Miller and Steve Matthews presented a BVA wreath at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns. The wreath laying followed music by the United States Marine Band and brief addresses by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, and President George W. Bush in the cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater.
Student Produces BVA Documentary
Leander Schaerlaeckens, a graduate student in broadcast journalism at The American University in Washington, DC, has produced a documentary about BVA.
The eight-minute segment features interviews with Tom Miller and World War II blinded veteran Dr. Louis J. Blumen at BVA National Headquarters. Schaerlaeckens also interviewed OIF serviceman Jeffery Mittman at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
An online link to the production will be available shortly on the Homepage of the BVA website.
Concerned New Yorker Makes Voice Known
Blinded veteran Ralph Chinelly, New York Regional Group, concerned that OIF servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice were not being appropriately remembered in his state, took action by asking Member of Assembly Susan V. John if the state could lower the flag to half-staff with each tragic loss.
Because the state legislature cannot order flags to be lowered for that purpose, John followed up on Ralph’s request by addressing an April 11 letter to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who has the authority and power to implement such action by executive order.
“I believe that this simple act would be a great statement to our fallen children and send a strong message to their survivors that New Yorkers appreciate their sacrifice,” John’s letter stated.
Ralph encourages BVA members to ask for similar action to be taken in other states.
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