Around BVA...

 

Standage: Pioneer and Arizona Role Model

 

Dan Standage, vice president of the Southern Arizona Regional Group, was featured in two recent newspaper articles, one in the The Daily Wildcat last October 20 and the other on October 23 in the Arizona Daily Star. The first of the two publications is the student newspaper of the University of Arizona.

The Daily Star highlighted Dan’s successful use of a GPS-enabled iPhone that gives him precise directions about where he is and where he is headed. He learned the high-tech navigation skills necessary to use the device at the Southwestern BRC at Tucson.

Dan’s blindness, which includes no vision at all in his left eye and limited use of his right eye, is linked to a vaccine that he received for Japanese encephalitis while stationed in Okinawa. He served in the Marine Corps from August 1991 until September 2001.

The article outlines the benefits of technology that helps blinded veterans get out and do things on their own when they would otherwise be homebound, depressed, and perhaps fearful to take bus trips to a mall or to a full-time job. As a young man who grew up with high-tech gadgetry, Dan found it easier to use the technology than it is for many older veterans. Nevertheless, he said, practice and patience certainly makes it possible for anyone. Dan is one of about 65 veterans who have taken GPS training in Tucson.

The Daily Wildcat story described the University of Arizona (UA) campus Veterans Education and Transition Services office, which Dan had a major part in initiating and organizing. The office is a gathering place and resource center for student veterans who need assistance with academic, social, or personal issues. It also functions as a hangout and place of camaraderie for veterans as they sit at computers, discuss class projects, or eat lunch. About 50 veterans visit the office each day.

Having graduated in 2009 with a degree in rehabilitation, Dan continues his work on campus as the coordinator for the newly initiated Veterans Reintegration and Education Project. His daily work focuses on the approximately 600 veterans on the University of Arizona campus who are certified to use the GI bill and many more who are not on the bill but may still need assistance with the transition from the military to the university. Issues of greatest concern include meeting family responsibilities while going to school full-time, being on the older side of a generation gap at the university, adjusting to an unstructured environment, and coping with disabilities as a result of injuries.

Dan was also an instrumental participant volunteer in Operation Peer Support sessions at the BVA 64th National Convention in Portland last August.

BVA Members Inspire Others at Winter Sports Clinic


After a dramatic recovery from a fall earlier this year, Ken Lagerquist, center, readies himself for a downhill run at this year’s Winter Sports Clinic at Snowmass Village.
After a dramatic recovery from a fall earlier this year, Ken Lagerquist, center, readies himself for a downhill run at this year’s Winter Sports Clinic at Snowmass Village.

George Davis and Ken Lagerquist, members of the Spokane Inland Empire Regional Group, were among the contingency of blind and visually impaired veterans from throughout the country who braved opposition and adversity in amazing performances at the 24th Annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

This year’s event was held March 28-April 2 at the customary site in Snowmass Village, Colorado. Participants included veterans with spinal cord injuries, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, neurological challenges, and visual impairments. The clinic is jointly sponsored by VA and Disabled American Veterans with additional financial support from corporations and individuals.

Both George and Ken, accompanied at Snowmass by VIST Coordinator Suzanne Bennatt, participated in downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, scuba diving, and goalball.

For Ken, the activity followed a serious accident this past January in which the 85-year-old fell off a ladder in his garage and was hospitalized with a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and a serious concussion.

“Ken’s doctor told him that many people would not have survived an accident like that,” said Suzanne. “One of the primary things that motivated him to recover from the accident was the anticipation of being able to go to the Winter Sports Clinic again for downhill skiing, which in two months became a reality for him.”

George, who also looked forward to the event, attributes his improved overall health and wellness to his participation in the clinic. “Not only has my confidence risen, I now have a greater determination to exercise more, increase my involvement in sports activities, and keep my diabetes under control.

George also plans to do additional cross-country skiing at Mt. Spokane and tandem biking with his family as a result of his experiences at Snowmass Village. He also enjoyed his first attempt ever at scuba diving, snowmobiling, and goalball.

“To me, the Winter Sports Clinic illustrates the fact that regardless of our disability, we can do it, no matter what ‘it’ is,” he said. “Just say ‘I can’ and you will.”

The Winter Sports Clinic is a world leader in promoting rehabilitation through instruction in sports that may be new to veterans and, in many cases, later engage them in year-round activities. For newly injured veterans, including many wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, the clinic offers them their first experience in winter sports and the motivation to take their rehabilitation to a higher level.

Regional Groups Add Chapters

 

 

Two BVA regional groups have been in the process of welcoming new chapters to their ranks during the months of April and May.

On April 17, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Group approved the Shenandoah Valley Winchester Memorial Chapter based in Winchester, Virginia. James Hammond is the current acting president of the chapter until officers are elected.

On April 21, on the opposite coast, nine BVA members met in an Elmer’s Steakhouse in Roseburg, Oregon, to unofficially organize the Roseburg Chapter of the Oregon Columbia Regional Group. The new chapter will be presented to the group for formal approval on May 18. Although the Oregon officers have been designated, they will not be announced until the action is official.

“I received a wonderful phone call from the folks out there in Winchester,” said BVA member Rae Hail. “We wished each other well and agreed to try a brother-to-brother, across-the-country approach since we have much in common starting out.”

Rae, who credits Earl Ivie with giving him sound advice in his efforts to start the Oregon chapter, also said he looks forward to exchanging information from one coast to the other for a common goal.

“The Virginia people have agreed to buy first round at Happy Hour during the national convention,” he said.

Membership Director Addresses Prospective BVA Members

 

Nonmembers of the Blinded Veterans Association who currently receive the print version of the Bulletin should check this issue’s mailing label imprint, according to Director of Membership Alyson Alt.

If a mailing insignia contains the abbreviation NM or NAM at the top right, the Bulletin recipient is not an active member of BVA.

“We thank these individuals for the interest they have expressed in the past,” said Alyson. “Through the medium of the Bulletin, we have kept them current with legislative news, important events in the world of new technology, and with information about the activities of blinded veterans throughout the country.”

Such prospective members will soon receive a packet that includes a request to make an important decision, that of joining the Association as an active member.

“We are unable to continue sending the Bulletin to individuals with a nonmember history that extends over a five-year period,” said Alyson. “Those who become members, however, can continue to receive both the printed publication and a cassette version of each issue.”

The delivery of the packet will provide prospective members with an adequate time frame for response before names are removed from the Bulletin’s print version mailing list.

“Please remember that BVA has worked extremely hard in advocating on behalf of our nation’s blinded veterans and their families,” she said. “Since blinded veterans across the country enjoy numerous special programs, services, and benefits because of these efforts, we urge them to show their support by joining the organization.”

The packet includes a self-addressed return envelope that can be returned by postal mail. Prospective members may also call Alyson at 202-371-8880, Extension 3315, to process their membership by credit card at anytime. It is not necessary to wait for the packet to arrive.

“We are grateful to the veterans who have been interested enough in BVA’s issues to request delivery of the print version of the Bulletin,” said Alyson. “By now becoming active members, they will be lending the strength of their voice, to an even greater extent, to BVA’s efforts on behalf of all blinded veterans.”

MOPH Salutes BVA on 65th Anniversary

 

BVA’s sister organization The Military of the Purple Heart (MOPH) issued a special press release congratulating BVA on its 65th anniversary.

The release was dated March 23, 2010 and sent from the VSO’s national headquarters in Springfield, Virginia.

“The Military Order of the Purple Heart is pleased to recognize the Blinded Veterans Association and its members on the 65th anniversary of their founding on March 28, 1945,” the announcement stated. “Since its inception, BVA has encouraged the blinded veterans it serves to take their rightful place in the community with their fellowmen and work with them toward the creation of a peaceful world.”

The release also referred to BVA’s early advocacy on behalf of the war-blinded in their pursuit to regain independence, confidence, and self-esteem through rehabilitation and training.

VA Central Presents Framed VSO Emblems

 

A color rendition of the BVA emblem is now on display at the VA Central Office in Washington, DC on a newly created “Wall of Partnerships” on the tenth floor.

The unveiling occurred at a ceremony coordinated by VA Voluntary Service Director Laura Balun. Newly appointed Under Secretary for Health Robert A. Petzel presented the framed, glass-enclosed artwork to Tom Miller on March 23.

“Your organization’s continued service to veterans and support of VA’s mission is greatly appreciated and we hope our efforts in creating the ‘Wall of Partnerships’ demonstrates how much we value BVA’s partnership,” said Balun.

Floridians Tackle Transportation Issues

 

Florida Regional Group members Bob Fick and Gigi Mathis are among several blinded veterans making a difference in their communities by working to improve public transportation accessibility for the blind and visually impaired.

At age 81, Bob was recently appointed to the Polk County Transit Advisory Committee, which is currently working with county legislators on a referendum to fund the transit system.

Gigi, also from Polk County in the city of Lakeland, is starting from scratch in working with the county to establish a transportation advantage system.

“A huge obstacle for us anywhere is transportation,” said regional group member Paul Kaminsky. “It can pay off to stay involved and work with local government to help solve local transportation difficulties.”