by Norman Jones
I greet you all, my BVA family, with a brief report of my trip to Washington, DC, for the historic inauguration of a new President. Humbled by the opportunity to be in the Nation’s Capital with literally millions of other visitors, I absorbed what it all meant in terms of a peaceful transition of administrations within the executive branch. I thank all of you for your trust, which allowed me to represent BVA at events such as a traditional Medal of Honor dinner and the Veterans Inaugural Ball.
In addition to Vice President Biden’s appearance near the end of the ball, I stood toe-to-toe at the event with Marg Helgenberger of CSI fame. I also met NASA legend Buzz Aldrin. The experience was indeed a surreal one that I will always cherish and never forget.
I now find myself back down South with little more than “Georgia on my mind.” In this contemplative state, I resume the remarks I began in our last issue regarding our superb Field Service staff. I begin with the “quiet mouth from the south,” Harold “Jack” Stanton.
Actress Marg Helgenberger, best known for her co-starring role as Catherine Willows on the hit TV series CSI, took time to greet Norman Jones at the Veterans Presidential Inaugural Ball on January 20. Photo courtesy of Diane Jones.
Jack hails from Hannibal, Missouri, a small town located not much more than a stone’s throw from St. Louis. Despite his roots, Jack now finds himself knee deep in peach cobbler and the numerous other fine things of our great state. Jack has worked as a representative for only one year but has been a quick learner as he deals with each new claim a bit more effectively than the previous one. He is also establishing a good reputation around the VA Regional Office in Decatur.
Prior to joining BVA, Jack worked with veterans in the field of training and employment for the state of .Missouri. His hobbies are bowling and fishing. Jack covers Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee. He is waiting to help all who live within his area. Please call him at 404-929-5338.
From the gentle breezes of the South, we head north to Bean Town USA, or Boston, where our youngest and newest Field Service Representative is based. Both the Representative, Edward Eckroth, and Office Manager Susan Rhodes, are legally blind. Although Ed is from Pennsylvania, he now covers the entire New England area plus New York State. Blinded veterans living in any of the aforementioned states can call Ed at 617-303-5691. He is waiting to help and has promised not to charge a penny.
Another unique BVA work station is found in Washington, DC, several blocks from BVA National Headquarters. Claudia Perry, a two-year BVA veteran, heads up that office, which is located in a VA facility. She can be reached at 202-530-9286. Her territory includes the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Claudia has an active duty Air Force husband, Troy, and a 13-year-old daughter, Alicia. Ironically, one of Claudia’s main functions in the military was working in a lab. Claudia disliked the thought of receiving an injection so much that her last visit to a VA Medical Center included a petition that her flu shot be administered in pill or liquid form!
Claudia has a passion for bowling. She has indicated that one of her most recent games resulted in a score of 422. This sounded a little off to me but I told her I knew very little about the game. In fact, it sounded extra good just as Earl Ivie’s fish stories often sound extra good. Perhaps the 422 represents multiple games or a three-game series.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention our faithful leader and director of this stupendous group of blinded veterans who uphold our motto “Blinded Veterans Helping Blinded Veterans.” None other than former Field Service Representative and 35-year retiree of the U.S. Postal Service Steve Matthews, he comes to BVA from the Boston area. Steve has been with us for the past 12 years.
Steve can be found on a daily basis at our national headquarters building in the Chinatown district of the Nation’s Capital. He is ultimately responsible for all of the states and territories divided among the Representatives but, more important, his responsibility extends to all legally blind veterans residing in those areas.
Steve keeps the organization up-to-date by attending all meetings at the VA Central Office that concern the welfare of blinded veterans. He also represents BVA on the Board of Veterans Appeals. His wife Suzanne is Superwoman as the only office assistant on our staff who is also an officially accredited Veterans National Service Officer. As such, she at times tries her hand at claim resolution. To Steve, she is nothing less than indispensable.
In the event a blinded veteran anywhere in the country is undergoing a problem that he/she considers just too big for life, Steve and Suzanne just might be the party to call. Our headquarters number is, again, 202-371-8880. Steve and Suzanne will give it to you straight about your claim and will not beat around the bush.
And so it is that our BVA Field Service Program constitutes the backbone of the organization. The program keeps us standing tall, forthright, and unafraid to assert ourselves when the need arises to help a fellow blinded veteran. For all of the telephone numbers provided in this and the preceding issue, please do not worry about long distance charges. Simply leave a message for the appropriate representative, remembering to include your area code, and you will receive a return call. I know our Field Service Representatives will not let you down.