Of Note


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 performances.

"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 Initiate Training

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 resources.

"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 20,000 employees.

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.

Nelson's Notes

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.

GoBible Offers Alternatives

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.

Xavier Society Expands Service

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 periodicals.

Visit www.xaviersocietyfortheblind.org for additional information.

PTSD Application 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.

IAAIS Continues Valuable Service

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.