Around BVA...

Honorary Recognition for Rio Grande Group


An official resolution of the Texas State Senate on January 26 has commended BVA’s Rio Grande Regional Group for its outstanding commitment and support to veterans in the Paso Del Norte Region of the state.

Within the official Senate Resolution No. 42, a color copy of which now hangs in the library at the Association’s National Headquarters, the Senate mentions BVA’s historic national founding, its Congressional charter, the founding of the Rio Grande Regional Group by Korean and Vietnam veteran Bill Case, the emotional guidance and support BVA provides to blinded veterans and their families, the organization’s spirit of fellowship, and the prevalence of role models in helping blinded veterans take their rightful place in the community.

“We were most humbled and moved by the attention we received as a result of this recognition of our efforts,” said Bill, who has continued as the regional group’s president since its inception eight years ago.

According to Bill, the group invited Texas State Senator Eliot Schapleigh to a White Cane Day event it hosted last October at El Paso’s El Maida Shrine Center. After meeting members of the group, Schapleigh indicated his interest in drafting a resolution to honor them for their service to the community and to one another.

Resolution No. 42 was subsequently signed by Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, who also acts as Senate President, and Secretary of the Senate Patsy Spaw. The resolution was read on the Senate floor in Austin.

Georgia Training Center Named for Blinded Vet


Charles Monroe, Korean War veteran, member of the Georgia Regional Group, and member of the now deactivated Marine Corps Reserve’s “Dog Company” in Savannah, Georgia, now has a military training facility named after him.

The Hunter Army Airfield’s Marine Reserve Training Center in Savannah is now the Corporal Charles H. Monroe, Jr. Marine Reserve Training Center. The honor recognizes Charles’ heroism in a North Korean attack in November 1952 during the historic Chosin Reservoir Campaign in which he lost his sight at age 18. His bravery earned him the Navy Cross.

Hunter Army Airfield is a subordinate installation to Fort Stewart. 

The Marine Corps Reserves moved into a new building in late 2007 and the facility was dedicated and named for Charles in an official ceremony approximately six months later. Family members, friends, Marine Corps veterans, and other former “Dogs” joined him at the event. A plaque of dedication was mounted to the front of the structure.

Activities Galore for WV Support Group


Blinded veterans recently participating in the activities of a support group in Martinsburg, West Virginia, have been caught up in a recent burst of their own energy.

Inspired by the efforts of BVA life member Gerry Fitzpatrick, VIST Coordinator Donna Cobean, and VA Voluntary Service Representative Claude McCune, the group has held regular meetings in rooms filled to capacity, generated newspaper articles, partied hard on birthdays, and quickly increased to more than 30 members.

Support group members also welcomed a new low-vision therapist, raised funds for a June 19 trip to BVA National Headquarters, and presented plaques of appreciation to those who have helped the group get a big lift off the ground.

“On March 12, we presented a Certificate of Appreciation to the Conrad-Hoover Post 21 of the American Legion in Winchester, Virginia, for placing notices about us on its website,” said Gerry. “We believe it is imperative to thank those who generously serve and help us, and there is no doubt that this helpful publicity brought us additional support group members.”

The group also recognized Donna’s efforts with a plaque during the same meeting. On May 2-3, the support group set up an educational booth filled with BVA literature and handouts at the 82nd Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, the City of Winchester’s major community event of the year.

Association Partners with Census Bureau for 2010


BVA is one of 300 organizations nationwide to partner with the U.S. Census Bureau in an effort to promote participation in the 2010 census.

The goal of the Census Bureau’s partnership program, one of many census campaigns, is to combine the strengths of local governments, community-based organizations, schools, media, and businesses to ensure a complete and accurate 2010 Census.

As a partner, BVA is receiving promotional materials, regular updates, and data assistance while encouraging members, friends, employees, website visitors, convention attendees, and Bulletin readers to complete and mail their questionnaires.

More than $300 billion in annual federal funds are awarded to states and communities based on census data, amounting to more than $3 trillion over a 10-year period. The data also guides local decision-makers in important community planning efforts, including the building of new roads, hospitals, and schools. It also determines how many seats each state will have in Congress and the redistricting of state legislatures, city and county councils, and voting districts.

DC VAMC Lengthens Stride in Serving Blinded Veterans


The Washington, DC, VA Medical Center, dubbed the “Flagship of the VA,” continues its pursuit of excellence in providing quality services to blinded veterans.

Under the leadership of Director Fernando O. Rivera, a new addition to the medical center was begun last September. In addition, as part of the nationwide move to expand Continuum of Care services, in part due to BVA’s advocacy that brought about new funding, the Vision Rehabilitation Clinic within the hospital has opened its doors to low-vision veterans.

“This is a ten-day program that enforces the skills that are needed by visually impaired individuals in daily living activities,” said BVA Region II Field Service Representative Claudia Perry. “One of the highlights of the program, of course, is the teaching of computer skills that are so necessary in today’s technological world.”

Vision Rehabilitation Clinic staff include Supervisor Lillie Kennedy, Low-Vision Optometrist Dr. Ellen Kwon, Low-Vision Therapist Lashandra Holmes, Orientation and Mobility Therapist Vijaya Dabir, Living Skills Therapist Mary Frances McAndrews, Computer Access Therapist Udobi Ikeji, and Program Support Assistant Rosetta Allmond-Hart.

Maurice Toler navigates barrier-free zone implemented in the DC VA Medical Center lobby. Observing from behind is Orientation and Mobility Therapist Vijaya Dabir.
Maurice Toler navigates barrier-free zone implemented in the DC VA Medical Center lobby. Observing from behind is Orientation and Mobility Therapist Vijaya Dabir.

“The efforts of these individuals are what make the program a success now and will continue to make it so in the future,” said Claudia.

These professionals have the skills and expertise in blind rehabilitation that most certainly enhance the overall care at the medical center.” 
One of the more visible highlights of the increased services to blinded veterans was the creation of a barrier-free zone.

“Vijaya noticed that the lobby atrium at the medical center was a large and quite difficult area for blind individuals to maneuver in,” said Claudia. “Vijaya took the initiative to create a ‘barrier-free zone’ where blind patients can easily move about independently, which of course is the main goal of the Vision Rehabilitation Clinic.”

Still another improvement, proposed by Director Rivera himself, was the addition of vibrating pagers at the pharmacy so that visually impaired veterans would know when their medication is ready for pick-up.

“Attention to seemingly small but very significant details like these is what truly makes a difference to the blinded veteran community,” said Claudia. “We feel like our voice is being heard and that those who serve us truly care about the things that improve our quality of life.”

Noted Photographer, BVA Member, Dies


A world renowned photographer who happened to also be a BVA member in his later years passed away on April 5.

Rocco Morabito, 88, won the Pulitzer Prize for his dramatic July 17, 1967 photo “Kiss of Life.” Another famous Rocco photograph nine years earlier showed children in an elementary school reciting the Pledge of Allegiance near an American flag. Standing with the children, head erect, eyes forward, and paws over heart, was a pet rabbit.

Rocco Morabito poses 21 years later in 1988 with his Pulitzer-Prize winning shot. Photo courtesy of Florida Times-Union,
Rocco Morabito poses 21 years later in 1988 with his Pulitzer-Prize winning shot. Photo courtesy of Florida Times-Union,

“Rocco participated in the VIST support group monthly meetings and attended all of our regional group business meeting lunches here in Jacksonville,” said then Regional Group President Paul Kaminsky. “He was an ambassador for BVA and was always on the look-out for blinded veterans who were unaware of their potential benefits.”

Paul said that Rocco’s extraordinary photography passion was supplemented by his love for baseball and golf, but that he had to put golf aside with failing eyesight due to macular degeneration and then bypass surgery.

On assignment for the Jacksonville Journal where he worked for 42 total years, not counting his time selling the paper as a newsboy at age 9, Rocco was driving back to the newsroom after covering a railroad strike when the prize-winning photo opportunity emerged. He saw a crew of linemen working at the top of some poles and decided to stop.

As he parked, he heard the linemen yelling and saw that one was unconscious and dangling upside down alongside the pole.

Before taking photographs, Rocco used his car radio to tell the newspaper staff to call an ambulance. As he took his photos, a second lineman climbed the pole and began giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the victim, who had been shocked by a live wire. The man’s life was saved by this heroic act caught on film.

Rocco was born in Port Chester, New York, and moved to Jacksonville as a child. He entered the Army Air Corps in 1943, where he served in World War II as a B-17 ball-turret gunner. A Staff Sergeant, he was decorated for his 34 combat missions.

Director Sets Forth Vital Membership Info

by Alyson Alt

Please check the mailing label on your individual copy of the print version of this issue of the Bulletin. There is an abbreviation in the top right corner that will indicate your membership status. If there is an NM, NAM, FM, or FAM, you are not an active member.

NM and NAM (Nonmember and Non-Associate Member) means you have never joined. FM and FAM (Former Member and Former Associate Member) means you need to renew your membership. You may become an active member by contacting me at 800-669-7079, Ext. 3315. I can process your application by VISA, MasterCard, or Discover over the phone.

If you choose not to pay by credit card, I can complete your application while you dictate it to me. I can then send the form to you with a self-addressed envelope. You may return the application with your remittance (check or money order) using our envelope. If you send a remittance only, please be sure to write the word “Membership” on both the envelope and the remittance.

Why should you join or renew?

The Blinded Veterans Association has, for more than 64 years, toiled tirelessly in advocating for our nation’s blinded veterans and their families. Blinded veterans across the country enjoy numerous special programs, services, and benefits as a result of these efforts.

Did you know that you will receive a BVA membership pin if you are an LM or ALM (Life or Associate Life Member)? The pin serves as a thank you for your commitment to the Association.

If you do not wish to receive the print and/or audiocassette version of the Bulletin, please contact me. I will make sure that an electronic printing of your address is not generated for you when the next issue is sent. If you have a change of address, kindly direct this information to me as well. I will immediately update your record and you will not miss any BVA mailings.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can assist you with any other membership needs.

Editor Reports Chat with Pearl Harbor Survivor

by Stuart Nelson

One of the benefits of my job is the chance to meet and speak, usually by telephone, with a variety of interesting people who have much in the way of amazing life experiences to share.

Nothing could better prove that point than my recent conversation with retired Navy veteran Walter F. Howard, who has lost much of his sight to macular degeneration the past few years. I made the call at the behest of BVA Region VI-B Field Service Representative Earl Ivie, who had heard Walter address the blinded veteran contingency at a Southern California Regional Group meeting earlier this year.

Walter was at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 when a plane about 300 feet above ground began shooting at the station’s control tower. By the time dusk arrived on that fateful day, Walter had been an eyewitness to the mass casualties and destruction never to be imagined just 24 hours before.

This amazing blinded veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor among our ranks most assuredly saw, heard, and felt the events that forever changed the world. Space limitations in this issue preclude us from relating Walter’s story in its entirety. I hope to create such space in a future issue.