by Norman Jones
In this, my final President’s Message, I find myself reminiscing on the past two years, which have flown by. It’s been a great time but it is now time for another blinded veteran to take the helm. I am nostalgic but not sad. It brings to mind the statement of a very wise King Solomon, who penned the outstanding book of Ecclesiastes and in Chapter 3 wrote that “to everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under Heaven.”
I thank all who supported me throughout the past eight years as I served as your National Treasurer, Secretary, Vice President, and now President. I hope you will be as supportive of incoming officers. It is a comfort to know that supportive people are standing both behind us and in front of us, if you know what I mean.
New administrations and new people mean change. Although we sometimes fear change, I am hopeful that new ideas will come to the table and that we will move forward as an organization to meet new needs and address the issues that continue to emerge as time marches on.
It has been written that “the young becomes the old and mysteries do unfold.” I have also heard the cliché that winter indeed turns to spring and summer to fall—that is the way of time and nothing goes unchanged. I invite all of us to become a part of such change and, in many cases, become a major catalyst for it.
I receive calls from across the country from those of us who are sometimes bored and feel that they do not have enough to do. My response to them is most often something like, “Can’t you find something to do to help someone else?”
In expanding on that response, I believe many of us need to become more creative and to try something new in serving others. Get in the habit of attending your local BVA chapter, regional group, and state meetings. While there, become involved. Run for offices you are qualified to handle. Stop being a sitter who only points to others to do the work. We need your valuable ideas and all that you can offer.
Have you considered attending a BVA national convention? Many of us believe it is unaffordable to do so but a little planning ahead might just make it possible. Save a few funds month to month. If traveling and getting around is an issue, please know that our beloved Margarine Beaman puts together the greatest cadre of volunteers found anywhere. Everyone is taken care of at BVA conventions. You will learn a great deal and have fun at the same time. I look forward to rubbing shoulders with the proud Oregonians in a few months and wish you all could be there.
Have you attended a VA Blind Rehabilitation Center? If not, what are you waiting for? These facilities are there to make life better for you and your family. BVA has advocated for them and those who serve them for nearly 64 years. Please do not allow blindness to be the lock that keeps you enclosed. If so, you are enclosing your mind from the ideas and talents you have to share with others and from the purpose your life has. It is indeed time to unlock these ideas and talents!
Norman Jones reviews Braille notes prior to Congressional hearing, testifying on BVA’s behalf before a joint session of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs. The hearing occurred March 5.
If it is impossible for you to do something you did with sight, find another way to accomplish it. Be creative and continue to think. Learn a new language. Discover new equipment or technology designed for the blind and visually impaired with the help of your VIST Coordinator. You will be astounded by what is out there for you to learn, do, and be once you decide to do a little exploring.
After all of this, if you still feel down, please contemplate your heritage and personal history as a defender of the red, white, and blue. Have you forgotten the importance you have within the lines of American history? Can you perchance remember that it is you who is responsible for the liberties we now enjoy? They are precious and sacred beyond measure, humbly fought for and made possible by American veterans.
It has been an exciting and joyous ride as your National President. I have relished meeting and speaking to politicians and policymakers on behalf of BVA’s cause. I have also enjoyed meeting with blinded veterans as a group and individually. It has been a sobering but exhilarating experience to encounter such opportunities in the Halls of Congress and among our members in regional groups across the country.
I went to places I never dreamed of going and undertook tasks that made me stick my neck out a bit. Occasionally I became emotional when speaking of the importance of taking care of our veterans, once to the point of removing my shoe and hammering it on a table. As much as I apologize for that action itself, I am not sorry for the passion that motivated it.
As I gracefully move aside for our next leader, I plead with you to never forget your importance as an American veteran. May you stay optimistically focused and never tire of getting involved. May God ever bless you and yours, and may he also bless the United States of America.