BVA Salutes All Veterans
Left to right, Al Avina and Mark Cornell with David Godber and his father, Harvey Godber of Blind Veterans UK.
Blinded veterans and their families remembered their fellow veterans from all eras of service and walks of life during regional group activities, ceremonies, parades, receptions, and meal gatherings at homes, businesses, and restaurants throughout the country.
The November 11, 2014 events were frequently highlighted by a moment of silence at the arrival of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month commemorating the signing of the Armistice ending the First World War.
In Washington, DC, BVA National President Mark Cornell attended a White House breakfast hosted by Vice President Joe Biden. Two short hours later, at precisely 11 a.m., he witnessed a Vice Presidential wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns in summer-like temperatures. The Presidential wreath laying also included Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region/U.S. Army Military District of Washington Commanding General Jeffrey S. Buchanan.
Mark sat center stage with other Veterans Service Organization National Commanders and National Presidents at the traditional ceremony in the cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater. Repeating their Memorial Day performance, BVA Director of District 3 Pete Davis and National Field Service Program Director Ed Eckroth carried the American and BVA flags, respectively, down the amphitheater ramp during an awe-inspiring Parade of Colors to open the event. A prayer for veterans was then offered by Chaplain Michael McCoy, Acting Director of VA Chaplain Service.
Speakers at the ceremony included Ron Hope, National Commander of the Disabled American Veterans. DAV served as this year’s host organization representing the Veterans Day National Committee. Other speakers were newly appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald and Vice President Joe Biden. The music was provided by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Corps Band.
“Less than one percent of America’s population serves in the military but more than 99 percent of Americans owe that one percent so much more than we could ever repay,” said Biden. “You are not only the heart and soul, but you are the very spine of this nation, and we have an obligation to care for and equip those we send to war and care for them and their families when they come home—it is the only sacred obligation a government has.”
Following the ceremony, Mark and Executive Director Al Avina presented the BVA wreath at the same Tomb of the Unknowns. They were joined by two guests of BVA—British blinded veteran Harvey Godber and his son, David. Harvey, a member of Blind Veterans UK, learned about BVA in the United Kingdom through Colin Williamson, one of the key figures behind the overall success of the joint initiative Project Gemini that features a BVA trip to the United Kingdom each spring.
Following the wreath presentation, the BVA contingency attended a DAV-hosted reception at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial just outside the main gates of the cemetery.
Five days earlier on November 6, Ed Eckroth and Judith Bouton joined VA medical service and information service personnel, VBA officials, and representatives of other VSOs in disseminating information at a health fair sponsored by VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Veterans Affinity Group.
The event was held in the Brooke-Mondale Cafeteria Walkway at HUD in conjunction with an annual Veterans Day Ceremony and Reception also attended by Ed and Judy. The 2014 theme of the patriotic ceremony of music and spoken tributes to veterans was “Honor, Courage, Loyalty: Honoring All Who Served—Our Wounded Warriors.”