Wreaths Across America
Sets Sights Higher
Christmas 2011 will mark the 20th year of
placing wreaths on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery, according
to Morrill Worcester, founder of Wreaths Across America and the donor of
5,000 wreaths each December from 1991 through 2005.
The donations were made through Worcester's company, Worcester Wreath, located in Harrington, Maine.
"After a Pentagon photographer took a famous
picture in 2005 of the wreaths in the snow, things changed," said
Worcester. "With the help of thousands of patriots, the wreath numbers
grew last year to 24,000 at Arlington and to more than 200,000 at 550
other cemeteries across the country and overseas."
Worcester has obtained permission from
the Arlington National Cemetery Administration to place a wreath during
the holiday season on each of the graves within the cemetery.
Approximately 225,000 wreaths will be needed if the goal is to be met.
"We are going to need the help of many to
make this a reality, but it will happen," said Worcester. "After 19
years, I'm proud to say that I'm still the largest donor but even
prouder to see that this project is still growing and expanding."
For more information or to lend support to the goal, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org, or write to Wreaths Across America, P.O. Box 249, Columbia Falls, ME 04623.
Rave Reviews Follow
VA Concert Airing
CNBC's May 29 airing of "Welcome Home
Veterans," a concert of the National Medical Musical Group (NMMG) taped
last Veterans Day, was so successful that it was rebroadcast on July 3
by the FOX Business Channel on the occasion of Independence Day.
The original concert, taped for
Veterans Day last November at Washington, DC's National Shrine of the
Immaculate Conception, was introduced both live and in the broadcast by
BVA's own Tom Miller, a longtime loyal supporter of the group and its
"The rebroadcast of the program on the FOX
Business Channel came about as the leaders of the Military Order of the
Purple Heart and MicroTech, Inc. viewed the CNBC broadcast and decided
that it was eminently worthy of another airing," said Dr. Mary Marienau,
President of NMMG. "They jointly put up the funds needed for
sponsorship and editing, for which we are very grateful."
Dr. Marienau also said that FOX
officials had confirmed that the channel had a large market share of
veterans and the military.
"Welcome Home Veterans" included comments
between musical numbers by screen actor Ron Masak of "Murder She Wrote,"
Washington, DC news anchors Maureen Bunyan and Derek McGinty, Newsweek
editor Eleanor Clift, and DC radio personality Bob Madigan.
VA and Easter Seals
More than 500 family caregivers who applied
for new services offered to Post 9/11 veterans and their caregivers
through the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act (see
Legislative Update, "Legislation Implementation and Status of Pending
Bills,") started their caregiving training June 9 and 10.
The core training, which was developed
in collaboration with Easter Seals, is offered in traditional classroom
settings, online, or through home study with a DVD and workbook. The
modules focus on the health and well-being of both the veteran and the
family caregiver. They include information on caregiver self-care, home
safety, practical care-giving skills, personal care services to the
veteran, managing challenging behaviors, and locating additional
"There is no more valuable tool we can
provide family caregivers than the knowledge and training needed to
perform this highly demanding labor of love," said Secretary Shinseki.
"This training will meet this need and support veterans and their family
caregivers with services and benefits they have earned."
New Under Secretary
For Benefits Sworn In
Retired Brigadier General Allison A.
Hickey, a 27-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard, and
Air Force Reserves, and a graduate of the first Air Force Academy class
to include women, is the new VA Under Secretary for Benefits. She was sworn in on June 6.
"General Hickey is a proven leader with deep
experience and passion, who is dedicated to the welfare of veterans,"
said Secretary Shinseki. "With her extensive knowledge, insight, and
commitment, I am confident we will achieve the bold and comprehensive
changes that will continue the transformation of the Veterans Benefits
Administration into a 21st century organization."
As Under Secretary, Hickey is
responsible for a $72.3 billion budget and benefit programs that include
compensation and pension benefits for more than four million veterans
and survivors, education programs, home loan guarantees, vocational
rehabilitation and employment services, and one of the nation's largest
life insurance programs.
Hickey replaces Acting Under Secretary
Michael Walcoff, who retired from VA after more than 35 years managing
the Department's benefits programs and 57 field offices with nearly
Army Offers Guidance
On Purple Heart Awards
The U.S. Army is encouraging soldiers
and veterans who were previously denied the Purple Heart for concussion
injuries to resubmit documentation for reconsideration.
"In our continuing effort to ensure that
America's soldiers are properly recognized for their many sacrifices, we
are providing clarifying guidance for awarding the Purple Heart for
mild Traumatic Brain Injuries and concussive injuries that do not result
in a loss of consciousness," said Brigadier General Richard P. Mustion
of the Office of the Adjutant General. "This is a procedural
clarification and not a change to the standards."
Veteran inquiries on the subject
should be routed directly to Commander, U.S. Army Human Resources
Command, Attention: Awards and Decoration Branch.
A much belated expression of appreciation
must be extended to our VA VIST Coordinators. They are undoubtedly the
most unheralded contributors to the BVA Bulletin. Sometimes they send
story ideas and sometimes articles written in their entirety. Often they
send blinded veterans with ideas directly to me.
One recent example was the informative
article about enjoying photography as a blind individual in our spring
issue. The information was put together by Dick Coulson, a member of
BVA's Rocky Mountain Regional Group.
Dick was encouraged to send this to
me by VIST Coordinator Pamela Newton, who is constantly thinking of
items of use or interest to our Bulletin readership.
Thanks go to Pamela and all our dedicated
VIST Coordinators who serve our veterans and help me with the Bulletin.
As a token of my thanks, I am including a poem in this issue that Pamela
sent to me recently. The author, Edgar Guest, was an English-born
American poet who was popular in the first half of the 20th century and
became known as The People's Poet.
"Although Guest was not blind, it would be great to share this uplifting poem in the BVA Bulletin if there is room," Pam wrote to me. I agree.
It Couldn't Be Done
By Edgar Guest
Somebody said that it couldn't be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That maybe it couldn't, but he would be one
Who wouldn't say so "till he tried."
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried, he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.
Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you'll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it."
But he took off his coat and took off his hat
And the first thing he knew he'd begun it.
With the lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle right in with a bit of a grin,
Then take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That cannot be done, and you'll do it.
An iPhone-size device now contains a
narrated version of the entire Bible, with both the King James and the
New International versions available. A new voice menu function provides
all users, especially the blind and visually impaired, with a new level
of access to the scriptures.
The developer of the device, GoBible,
pioneered the original pre-loaded digital audio Bible in 2006. Two
versions later, the device has been redesigned to make buttons and
controls more user-friendly.
For more information, visit www.GoBible.com.
Founded in 1900, the Xavier Society for the
Blind continues to provide spiritual and religious materials to the
blind and visually impaired at no charge.
The organization, a lending library,
recently redesigned its website to accommodate online ordering of
materials, registration for special events, and the downloading of
Visit www.xaviersocietyfortheblind.org for additional information.
To Aid Thousands
VA and DoD jointly launched the
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) smartphone application in April to
help service members and veterans connect with important mental health
information and resources. Its official name is PTSD Coach app.
Thousands of individuals have already
downloaded the application in both the United States and 25 other
countries. The PTSD Coach app allows users to track their PTSD symptoms,
links them with public and personalized sources of support, provides
accurate information about PTSD, and teaches helpful strategies for
managing PTSD symptoms on the go.
The application is one of the first in
a series of jointly-designed resources by the VA National Center for
PTSD and DoD's National Center for Telehealth and Technology. Its
purpose is to help service members and veterans manage their
readjustment challenges and obtain anonymous assistance.
Information on the PTSD Coach app is on the VA's National Center for PTSD website located at http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/PTSDCoach.asp.
The International Association of Audio
Information Services is a volunteer-driven membership organization of
services that turns text into speech for people who cannot read
conventional print because of blindness or any other visual, physical,
or learning disability.
More than 20 million Americans have
experienced significant vision loss and, of the almost 1.5 million
legally blind in the U.S., more than 90 percent do not read Braille.
Formerly the Association of Radio
Reading Services, the IAAIS has existed since 1977. Its contemporary
mission is to assist, represent, and set standards of good practice for
audio information services worldwide. The name change in 1999 reflected
the advent of new technologies for producing and developing services.
IAAIS currently represents
approximately 140 services in the United States and Canada, the United
Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Africa. Members in the
U.S. are typically associated with public radio stations, colleges,
universities, or libraries. Blinded veterans and their families can
access an online directory of member services and their locations at http://www.iaais.org/findservices.html.
In almost all cases, IAAIS services and those of its membership are provided free of charge.