I sincerely hope that BVA members everywhere were able to start the New Year off right. As I am writing this piece not too far into 2010, I hope that all of you and yours will have a happy, prosperous, and peaceful year. I also look forward to making it a stellar one for the Blinded Veterans Association as an organization.
We start 2010 by having our highest count of membership ever at 11,106. We need to continue our growth in membership. We as current members are the best sales force that can be mustered. If we went out and secured just one new member each, our force would stand at 22,212, which of course would be amazing.
Your Legislative Committee stormed the House and the Senate March 1-3 to obtain support on the current and new bills in Congress that affect all veterans but, in particular, those that affect blinded veterans. We also presented Braille flags with personalized engravings to Representative John Boozman (R-AR-3) and Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for extraordinary efforts on our behalf this past year.
On March 4, I testified before a joint session of the House and Senate Committees on behalf of our membership. I emphasized the legislation that Tom Zampieri has prioritized in his Update above.
One legislative item I would add to Tom’s Update in this issue is BVA’s unconditional support for H.R. 4360, which is the proposed naming of the new BRC after the first military optometrist to be killed in action. Major Charles R. Soltes (Rob), Jr., O.D. was called to active duty in July 2004 at the age of 36 and deployed to Iraq just two months later. On October 13 of that same year, an Improvised Explosive Device entered his convoy vehicle and detonated. As Tom commented in a BVA press release on the subject, Major Soltes’ story is one of unwavering commitment and outstanding service that BVA believes should forever be associated with a facility designed to rehabilitate men and women with ocular injuries or disease.
We hope that your legislators will support this bill, which has no cost associated with it. They should be honored to add their names to the list of co-sponsors, which at press time was close to 100, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-8) and the remaining 52 members of the California delegation.
Senator Bernie Sanders accepts BVA award from Dr. Roy Kekahuna.
Our 65th National Convention will be upon us before we all realize. Our Manager of Conventions at BVA National Headquarters and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Group are teaming up to make this gathering the best ever. I would hope that our turnout would set the Nation’s Capital on its heels during the last week in August. Let us band together and make this convention memorable for all of us and for Washington, DC.
Of all the forces that make for a better world, none is as powerful as hope. With hope, we can think, we can work, and we can dream. If we have hope, we have everything. One of the things I wish for BVA members and all blinded veterans is hope.
Recently I came across a story that I’ve seen several times about a soldier and his deck of cards. The individual cards making up the deck became symbols of things in his life that were important to him and, even beyond that, reminders of his religious beliefs that related to life beyond his earthly existence.
I hope all of us have similar types of reminders in our lives of what is truly important. Please take time to pray for all of our soldiers who are in harm’s way to return safely. May we make the best of what we have and live to our full capacity. And may we begin to do so today.