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BVA Member Authors Unique Book about Flag


Mickey L. Dennis, a BVA life member from Eagle Butte, South Dakota, has now published his third book, Battle Cry of the American Flag.

Mickey previously wrote and published Take One Day at a Time and The Buffalo Soldier of the Western Frontier.

Mickey has what he believes is a highly unique collection of 32 flags measuring five feet by eight feet and which he calls the “Traveling Flag and Military Display.” The collection was the basis of his most recent book.

Mickey shares the flag collection with school and community groups throughout South Dakota. While doing so, he teaches them about veterans, patriotism, and the documents that best personify American freedom. The flags were originally provided to him as a gift by a retired Army colonel in Kansas.

“Each one of the flags in this collection tells a tremendous story that can make one feel that he/she is walking into history,” said Mickey. “Even with my blindness and PTSD, I can lay them out, make them fill an entire gymnasium, and talk about them at length.”

For more information about Mickey’s latest two books, go to

Old Photo Brings History to Life


A prominent photo displayed in the library adjacent to the Board room at BVA National Headquarters is about to reach the amazing milestone of a golden anniversary.

BVA National President at the time, Dr. Robert Bottenberg, chats with World War II veteran and actor Harold Russell in photo taken in Rome, Italy, in April 1959.
BVA National President at the time, Dr. Robert Bottenberg, chats with World War II veteran and actor Harold Russell in photo taken in Rome, Italy, in April 1959.

According to the May-June 1959 BVA Bulletin, the now 50-year-old photo was taken sometime during April 13-17, 1959. It shows a robust BVA National President Robert A. Bottenberg at left in conversation with Harold Russell, who at the time was Vice President of the World Veterans Fund (WVF), the double hand amputee of World War II, renowned actor, and later a three-term National Commander of AMVETS. Russell is best known for his leading role in the 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives. He also appeared in Inside Moves in 1980, Dogtown in 1997, and as a guest on several TV shows.

The occasion was the Eighth General Assembly of WVF, of which BVA was one of six American organization members at the time, the others being AMVETS, American Veterans Committee, DAV, PVA, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart. More than 350 delegates from 38 countries and five continents attended the meeting.

WVF was a well-known and significant international organization in the 1950s, especially among Western democracies. The combined membership consisted of more than 20 million veterans of international wars and victims of such wars. The stated objectives were to maintain world peace and to uphold the ideals of the charter of the United Nations.

“Perhaps no grouping of people across the face of the earth has a greater interest in these objectives than veterans and war victims represented by the WVF,” Bob wrote in his National President’s message in the BVA Bulletin 50 years ago.

Bob recently recalled the experience in the context of still another significant event in BVA’s history that was occurring within the same time frame.

“I remember landing in New York on a Friday and having to hop down to DC for the weekend of BVA Board meetings that were the equivalent then of our mid-winter meetings now,” he said. “One of the prime agenda items for the meeting was finalization of the new BVA Congressional Charter.” The Charter gave BVA an exclusive representation of blinded veterans before the U.S. Congress that continues today.

Arizona Member Takes BVA Motto to Heart


BVA featured Southern Arizona Regional Group Vice President Dan Standage in radio and newspaper releases distributed nationwide in late January. The radio releases were also translated into Spanish for distribution to Hispanic stations.

The article and radio spot, which reflect Dan’s personification of BVA’s motto “Blinded Veterans Helping Blinded Veterans,” will appear in dozens of media throughout the country during the upcoming 12-14 months.

The releases highlight Dan’s service to fellow student veterans at the University of Arizona through his volunteer work in the on-campus Veterans’ Education and Transition Services (VETS) Office, which he himself founded.

“We run the office similar to a USO—if you’re a veteran, or accompanied by one, you’re welcome,” he said. “The areas I focus on are reducing the stress of coming to college and removing the barriers that, in turn, reduce anxiety.

The VETS office helps veterans at the university with questions and issues ranging from financial aid, directions to campus locations and events, academic problems, disability accommodations, psychological challenges relating to combat experiences, and navigating more effectively the university bureaucracy.

“We have also started a local chapter of the Student Veterans of America,” he said. “This allows us to use the facilities around campus for either a reduced cost or for free and gives us a voice on campus.”

The VETS office is working on a number of miscellaneous projects, including “Operation Valiant Call.” The idea, originated by Dan and the university registrar, involves the recording of books by university volunteers for students with print-related disabilities who could not find another audio version or who could not qualify for services or memberships with organizations such as RFB&D.

“I have taken elements that were important and significant in my life and tried to implement the very best of them,” he said. “If coming in and talking for five minutes can help someone, this has all been worth it and, as is often the case, I myself am the greatest therapeutic beneficiary of all.”

Gruber Scholarship Deadline Approaches


BVA will award six Kathern F. Gruber scholarships for the 2009-10 academic year, according to Brigitte Jones, Administrative Director at the Association’s national headquarters. The six scholarships are valued at $2,000 each.

The BVA Scholarship Committee will also select three alternates in case any of the awards cannot be subsequently accepted.

Gruber scholarships are limited to spouses and dependent children of blinded veterans, but the blinded veteran in question does not have to be a BVA member. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit by the Committee.

The awards are for a single academic year of study but recipients can re-apply to receive them a second, third, or fourth time.

Requests for scholarship applications can be addressed to BVA National Headquarters, Attn: Kathern F. Gruber Scholarship Program, 477 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20001. They can also be addressed to Keleeba Scott at 202-371-8880 or. Information and applications are also located at

Completed applications must arrive at BVA National Headquarters no later than Monday, April 13, 2009.

Applicants Encouraged for Feldman Funds


The Blinded Veterans Association Auxiliary (BVAA) will award three $2,000 and two $1,000 Renee Feldman scholarships for the 2009-10 academic year. The scholarships are open to the spouses and children of blinded veterans and membership in BVA is not required.

To be eligible for a Feldman scholarship, the applicant must have been accepted at the school of his/her choice. The institution in question may be a vocational school, community college, four-year college, or university.

The fees in all cases are paid directly to the school and are intended to defray the cost of tuition, books, and general fees.

The application process for the scholarships includes supplying information about previous academic achievement, a statement of present goals and plans, a 300-word essay, and letters of reference. Completed application packets must be received no later than Friday, May 1, 2009.

For further information and an application, contact Hazel Compton, BVAA Scholarship Chair, P.O. Box 267, Richlands, VA 24641, or by telephone at 276-963-3745. 

Lexingtonians Brave Storm, Spread Holiday Cheer


Hazardous road conditions and a monstrous winter snowstorm did not deter 35 Lexington, Kentucky, blinded veterans and family members from attending a December 11 holiday party.

“Although we had 65 invitations out there, we really didn’t know if anyone at all could make it under the extreme circumstances,” said Chapter President Harold White.

The Lexington Chapter is part of the BVA Kentuckiana Regional Group.

Lexington Chapter President Harold White shows off newly designed BVA banner while guarding “Dirty Santa” gifts prior to Santa’s arrival.
Lexington Chapter President Harold White shows off newly designed BVA banner while guarding “Dirty Santa” gifts prior to Santa’s arrival.

“The roads were icy and getting out of the canyons was next to impossible, but there we were in the VA Medical Center auditorium with gifts galore, more food than we could eat, and my brother Pat all dressed up as Santa and ready to conduct his ‘Dirty Santa’ gift exchange,” he said.

Included among the invitees was former Vietnam War POW John Trotter. Box lunches were provided by Meals on Wheels through the local Trinity Baptist Church.

In addition to the bravery and dedication of those attending the party, Harold said the holiday season was also unique for the Chapter in 2008 because of the additional outpatient blind rehabilitation services now available in Lexington.

“Christmas actually came early this year with new personnel in the areas of Orientation and Mobility, Low-Vision Optometry, Daily Living Skills, and a newly created BROS position—all working in concert with our new VIST Coordinator Gregory Manuel,” said Harold.


Bowlers Remember Fellow Blinded Vet


The Maryland Blind Bowlers have made a contribution to the Blinded Veterans Association in memory of one of their beloved members, according to fellow bowler and BVA Field Service Representative for Region II Claudia Perry.

“Antionette Ward, or Toni, as she was called by her friends, was an inspiration to all blinded veterans,” said Claudia.

Accompanied by her guide dog, Roy, Toni was able to travel to bowling tournaments throughout the country and also participated in the VA-sponsored Winter Sports Clinic last year.

“Because Toni uplifted us and gave us much in so many other ways, the Maryland Blind Bowlers cannot think of a better way of remembering Toni than to contribute to BVA, of which she as a proud member, Claudia said. “Her bright smile and cheery attitude will be greatly missed by her bowling family!”

The bowlers collected $200 in Toni’s name. Unfortunately, just three weeks later, they were beset by a second tragic and equally difficult loss with the passing of league member Peter Pascua, also a member of BVA and an eight-year veteran of the Air Force.

“Losing Peter was very tough too,” said Claudia. “Everyone in the league loved him—we were his family.”

In addition to Claudia, the current Maryland Blind Bowler BVA members are Charles Butler, league president George Caldwell, and National Field Service Director Steve Matthews. All three belong to BVA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Group.

Calendar Overrun Again Helps Operation Shoebox


Nearly 6,500 BVA calendars for 2009 have been shipped to Soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, thanks to Florida Regional Group member Bill Geden, his wife Nancy, and the increasingly popular “Operation Shoebox” supporting OIF and OEF service members.

For the second consecutive year, the couple made two separate deliveries of the calendars from their home in Hernando to Belleview, located two hours away. The first delivery to Operation Shoebox in early December, originally intended to be the only one, consisted of six heavy boxes of 2,280 total calendars.

But when Bill found out that BVA National Headquarters had received an unexpected overrun after the first of the year, he jumped on the opportunity, requesting “every calendar that can possibly be spared.”

The second delivery consisted of 4,180 total calendars in 11 boxes.

“I guarantee that every single calendar you can send us will end up in good hands at Operation Shoebox,” Bill told BVA Manager of Communications Stuart Nelson. “The 2,400 we sent last year were appreciated by both the shippers and the recipients more than you can ever know, and the same will be the case this year.”

The couple also regularly delivers thousands of donated magazines to the charity from various sources.

Operation Shoebox began in 2003. At the time, native Floridian Mary Harper (Belleview) had four children and a son-in-law simultaneously serving in Iraq. Regularly, she began sending all of them shoeboxes filled with taken-for-granted items from home.

The popularity of the items resulted in parcels sent first to friends of the Harpers, then friends of friends, and eventually to thousands of service members. Extraordinary groups of volunteers now package and prepare the items for shipment.

“Sempermax” Website Expands


Lieutenant Colonel Tim Maxwell, Operation Peer Support participant at the BVA 62nd National Convention in Albuquerque, continues to expand and improve his personal website “Sempermax” in the pursuit of helping other wounded service members in their recovery process.

The site is located at

Despite suffering a severe traumatic brain injury in 2004 that caused loss of vision, Tim is still an active duty infantryman with 20 years in the Marine Corps and currently serves as an advisor to the Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment. He earned a B.A. degree in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University and a Master’s degree in Operations Analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He deployed six times in his career with three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

“Sempermax” contains reports, articles, photos, and videos that seek to make life better for wounded Marines. Although the topics covered include sight loss, TBI, PTSD, and loss of limbs, “Sempermax” seeks to inspire Tim’s wounded friends with “practical assistance in the spirit of the Marine Corps.”

A prolific and motivational speaker and writer on the subject of “team healing,” Tim discovered for himself that recovery is enhanced by being together with other wounded warriors. Because of him, Marines at the Wounded Warrior Barracks located on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune find improved recovery through team healing. The barracks are named Maxwell Hall in his honor.

Tim’s tireless efforts on behalf of Wounded Warriors and the success of the barracks named for him have become catalysts for reform and initiatives throughout DoD.

Newly Released TV Spots Highlight BVA Service


BVA is the subject of two separate television productions to be aired nationally and in regional markets in April and May. The spots were produced by Vision Media’s National Report Series.

The first production is a two-minute commercial slated for national distribution next month. Regional airings will be broadcast approximately 400 times in many of the top 200 designated marketing areas beginning in May.

A longer eight-minute educational public television segment, referred to as a corporate awareness piece, will be sent to National Report Series affiliates in May. Affiliates include several international outlets.

BVA will receive a detailed airing report that highlights the reach and frequency of the distribution as soon as the airing schedule is finalized, which is typically 1-2 weeks prior to the national two-minute airing.

Both of the two spots include information and footage of Field Service Representatives helping fellow blinded veterans. The longer segment details the causes of blindness for today’s veterans, the services available to blinded veterans, and how BVA assists them in accessing such services.

The corporate awareness segment, digitized and encoded for the Internet, is streaming online on both Google and YouTube. For link access, visit the News page on the BVA website,, or search for the video using the BVA name or National Medical Report. The video is also streaming on the BVA site itself.

DVD copies of the corporate awareness segment can be requested by calling Stuart Nelson at BVA National Headquarters, 202-371-8880, Ext. 3316.

West Virginia Gets New VAVS Rep


Army Korean War Veteran and BVA life member Claude McCune has been appointed the first ever VA Voluntary Services Representative at the Martinsburg, West Virginia, VA Medical Center.

Claude recently joined BVA through the VA blinded veterans support group in Martinsburg, a group that has recently been rejuvenated.

“It’s now a whole new ballgame out here with greater support from the medical center itself, more enthusiasm from some of the new blood we have in the veterans themselves, and guidance from our always reliable VIST Coordinator Donna Cobean,” he said.

Claude, a member of the Mountain States Regional Group by virtue of his residence in Delray, a tiny West Virginia community more than 90 minutes from Martinsburg, hopes to further energize the support group and the individual veterans themselves through social activities in the form of cookouts, educational opportunities such as a field trip to Washington, and recruitment of new members that will hopefully join both the support group and BVA.

“We are trying to get the word out any way we can,” he said. “Our focus will be on asking local radio stations to air spots in some of our small towns and we have confidence that many of our efforts will pay off down the road.”

Texas Blinded Vet Initiates AMD Support Group


North Texas Regional Group member Jim Ames has established a foundation that offers monthly educational meetings in the San Angelo area for individuals with Advanced Macular Degeneration.

Through its own support group, The Jim Ames Macular Degeneration Foundation seeks to help individuals who would like to understand more about Macular Degeneration and other vision problems. The group meets on the third Tuesday of each month to hear speakers and share helpful hints about coping with vision impairment.

The meetings draw on the local community and its resources as part of their agenda, discussing such issues as new uses of Macugen, healthy foods for vision, and general eye care. For more information, contact Jim Ames at