Around BVA...

 

Father Carroll Bio Author Seeks Veterans’ Assistance

by Rachel Rosenbaum

I am the retired President of the Carroll Center for the Blind (33 years, 1976-2009). Upon retirement, I took on the task of reading Father Carroll’s correspondence and other files.

As I read, I became acutely aware of the importance of Father Carroll’s experience as the Chaplain to the newly blinded World War II Army veterans who were sent to Old Farms Convalescent Hospital in Avon, Connecticut, where the Army’s experimental rehabilitation program was housed.

Father Thomas J. Carroll’s success in helping the blind and training others in his methods earned him nationwide recognition. His work in the field of blindness and rehabilitation was both multi-dimensional and far-reaching beyond the veterans he served. Father Carroll’s monumental book published in 1961, Blindness—What It is, What It Does, and How To Live With It, is still referenced in the field of blind rehabilitation.
Father Thomas J. Carroll’s success in helping the blind and training others in his methods earned him nationwide recognition. His work in the field of blindness and rehabilitation was both multi-dimensional and far-reaching beyond the veterans he served. Father Carroll’s monumental book published in 1961, Blindness—What It is, What It Does, and How To Live With It, is still referenced in the field of blind rehabilitation.

When Father died suddenly in 1971, the Carroll Center opted to leave his files intact and never had the money to hire an archivist to sort through and organize them. I therefore volunteered to do it. During my tenure, the Center also maintained a rather lively correspondence about Father Carroll with numerous vets through the years.

With those experiences behind me as a foundation, I am now committed to writing his biography.

In reading Father Carroll’s letters, I became aware of how important he felt his work was with blinded veterans at Avon Old Farms Convalescent Hospital and Valley Forge Hospital. The work was important in and of itself but it was also important to the development of his philosophy of rehabilitation that was later put into practice in so many circles and certainly lives today.

Many of the blinded veterans with whom Father Carroll worked became lifelong friends. Unfortunately, many are now deceased but, if you are such a veteran and if you plan on attending the BVA conference in Reno, Nevada, in August, please contact me or let Stuart Nelson know you plan to be in attendance. We hope to gather together all who remember Father Carroll so that I can hear and record your stories for my book.

It is possible that you did not know Father Carroll at Avon but knew him later. If you knew him at any point, I wish to talk with you. Also, if you know of widows or children who might have known Father Carroll, I am looking to hear their stories as well. Please let me know how to contact them so I can interview them later.

I would be so pleased if you could help me. There are so many missing bits of information that would give a full picture of the man. For example, did Father Carroll like music? If so, what kind?

I look forward to meeting you in Nevada. Let's hope for a good turnout!

BVA Proclaims Neftali Sanchez Day

 

Through his example of faith and courage, longtime Blinded Veterans Association National Chaplain Neftali Sanchez has taught not only his fellow blinded veterans, but hundreds of fellow Americans, how to overcome adversity. He has exemplified the enjoyment of life to the fullest and how to look forward to the future with brightness of hope and optimism.

Chaplain Sanchez served BVA as National Chaplain from 1979 until his retirement in 2011.

Longtime BVA National Chaplain Neftali Sanchez in Las Vegas, Nevada, in August 2011 as he addressed a BVA national convention contingency for final time.
Longtime BVA National Chaplain Neftali Sanchez in Las Vegas, Nevada, in August 2011 as he addressed a BVA national convention contingency for final time.

On March 22, 2014, BVA recognized Chaplain Sanchez through a proclamation by National President Mark Cornell declaring the day “Neftali Sanchez Day” in honor of his 80th birthday. The proclamation was sent to him at his Riverside, California home.

Chaplain Sanchez’s life changed abruptly on July 11, 1953 in Korea when he was just 19 years old. On patrol that day as an Army Corporal, he was wounded by an exploding grenade that caused the loss of both of his eyes and both of his arms below the elbows. Instead of languishing in self-pity and despair, Chaplain Sanchez refused to abandon his hope in the future and the full life that he had envisioned for himself before his injury.

Whether improving his technical proficiencies and independent living skills in blind rehabilitation programs, studying for examinations on the way to both a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree at the University of Pepperdine, obtaining a second Bachelor’s Degree in theology from University College of Bible Studies, or contributing as a member of the BVA Board of Directors in the 1960s and serving as BVA’s spiritual leader for 32 years from 1979 to 2011, Chaplain Sanchez has been relentless in pursuing the personal goals that would best prepare him to give of himself and effectively serve others with compassion and empathy.

The explanation for the remarkable life of Chaplain Sanchez is undoubtedly rooted in the formation of his character at a young age, exemplified in a November 13, 1953 news article in the El Paso Herald Post. The article quotes Chaplain Sanchez’s mother, who had just visited him for the first time since his injuries. The place of that meeting was a hospital in San Antonio, Texas. “If Neftali was discouraged, he never showed it,” she said. “He seemed happy and full of plans for the future.”

Chaplain Sanchez attended 31 of the 32 BVA National Conventions during his chaplaincy. He served six years longer than Father Carroll, whom he personally reveres and in whose honor he delivered luncheon addresses in 1979 and again in 2001.

“Now therefore, I, Mark Cornell, National President of the Blinded Veterans Association, by virtue of the authority vested in me through election by the duly elected delegates at the BVA 68th National Convention on August 23, 2013, do hereby proclaim March 22, 2014 as Chaplain Neftali Sanchez Day throughout the Blinded Veterans Association in honor of his eightieth birthday,” the proclamation read.

Voiceye Phone Application Facilitates Bulletin Reading

 

Beginning with this issue of the BVA Bulletin, the publication may be read using Voiceye, a system designed to make printed documents accessible using a dense, two-dimensional barcode.

The Voiceye code has been added to the top right portion of each page of the Bulletin through a software add-in. The code can then be scanned with a smartphone, tablet, or iPod touch device using a free application found in the user’s app store. The encoded information can then be pulled into the user’s device when the code is scanned, allowing the pages to be converted from text to speech or magnified in ten different levels and five high contrast modes.

The information available can also be translated into 58 different languages using Google Translate. It can also be connected to a refreshable Braille display through Bluetooth to be read in Braille or shared through Facebook, Twitter, and email.

Roanoke Volunteers Achieve, Make Mark in Community

BVA members Richard Rhett, middle left, and Mike Doyle were recognized by Salem VA Medical Center Director Dr. Miguel LaPuz, far left, and VIST Coordinator Stephanie Sackett for attaining the 7,500-hour mark for voluntary service hours. The two plan to continue their service to blinded veterans in both the near and the distant future.
BVA members Richard Rhett, middle left, and Mike Doyle were recognized by Salem VA Medical Center Director Dr. Miguel LaPuz, far left, and VIST Coordinator Stephanie Sackett for attaining the 7,500-hour mark for voluntary service hours. The two plan to continue their service to blinded veterans in both the near and the distant future.

BVA veteran volunteers Richard Rhett and Michael Doyle were both recognized May 16 for amassing 7,500 hours of voluntary service. The two currently volunteer in the same BVA office at the Salem, Virginia, VA Medical Center near Roanoke.

Richard generally volunteers on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays while Mike works Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

The recognition occurred at the annual VA Voluntary Service luncheon at the medical center. Presenting the certificates was Associate Director Rebecca J. Stackhouse.

Duties shared by Richard and Mike center on serving as an information resource to other blinded veterans in the area and, as Mike stated, “helping them move physically, mentally, and emotionally from Point A to Point B in the process of adjusting to blindness.”

The tasks include placing and answering telephone calls, meeting in person with other blinded veterans visiting the hospital, searching out resources in the patient library, donating and distributing talking books, and assisting with other duties as assigned by VIST Coordinator Stephanie Sackett.

Mike also got his name out in the community for still another accomplishment just one week before. Participating in a fourth annual Wounded Warrior turkey hunt in an effort to bring veterans and soldiers from southwestern Virginia together, the retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant with Retinitis Pigmentosa was the first of four contestants to nab a turkey.

Not bad for someone who, when sitting across the table from someone, sees only one eye and with a blur—no hair, no chin, no face, nothing else.

In the May 14 Southwest Virginia Today, Bland County’s daily newspaper that covered the event, Mike credited his guide, Mark Wilson of Grayson County, for helping him bring home the turkey.

“He got behind me and looked down the side of the barrel and told me to shoot,” said Mike. “He was my eyes and my safety coordinator—if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have known it was there even if it had walked right up to me.”

During the hunts, the southwestern Virginia veterans, some wounded and others not, are paired with experienced turkey hunting guides and callers. The deeper purpose of the event is to enjoy one another’s company and help each other when necessary.

“It was a fabulous hunt,” Mike was quoted as saying. “Anytime I can get into the woods, I feel I have had a successful day. It doesn’t matter if I kill anything or not. It’s about being with other hunters, the support and camaraderie. I wasn’t a blind guy anymore. I was a hunter. They made me feel very comfortable.”

WWII Vet Celebrates 101st at VA BRC

 

Carl Paul, honorary World War II member of BVA, recently celebrated his 101st birthday during a two-month stay at the American Lake BRC in Lakewood, Washington.

The occasion was reported in a news story in the Tacoma News Tribune on January 17 that focused on VA’s residential blind rehabilitation program, now implemented in 13 BRCs nationwide.

The article explained that the personal training at American Lake would help Carl make the most of his remaining vision and regain his independence around the house.

Born in January 1913, Carl parachuted into Sicily with the 82nd Airborne Division. He offered comfort to liberated inmates at a Nazi prison camp and built a sprawling ranch in Idaho where he raised a family with a wife he met overseas during the war.

He became popular at the BRC when counselors learned of his rich World War II experiences. Once they had figured out that he’d be with them for his 101st birthday, they decided to throw him a party and invite several high-ranking Army dignitaries to stop by and wish him well. Included in the group of visitors who shook his hand were veterans of the same 82nd Airborne Division and Joan Shalikashvili, wife of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili.

South Texas Group Sponsors BVA Awards

 

BVA’s South Texas Regional Group has raised sufficient funds to sponsor this year’s Melvin J. Maas and Irving Diener Awards.

The Melvin J. Maas Award for Professional Achievement and the Irving Diener Award are presented at the annual BVA Awards Banquet, the national convention’s capstone event.

“Our thinking in South Texas is that if each group could be challenged to contribute to the stipends, the awards would become more meaningful as the recipients are honored for their achievements and the regional group recognized for its generosity,” said National President Mark Cornell, also a member of the South Texas Regional Group. “We hope that another regional group will accept the challenge for next year.”

The stipend, not including hotel stay, is $500 for the Maas Award and $50 for the Diener Award.

The stories behind the naming of the awards have some intrigue. Major General Melvin J. Maas was a World War I veteran who became prominent after his election to the U.S. Congress from Minnesota in 1926. He served for eight total terms, returning to active duty during World War II while still a Member of the House of Representatives. He was wounded on Okinawa in 1945. The injuries eventually left him blind in 1951. Shortly thereafter he joined BVA and served as National Vice President in 1953 and in other Board positions until 1960.

Irving Diener of New York City was president of a chain of supermarkets. He became a BVA supporter through Nat Newman, also a businessman and a BVA supporter who originally donated the stipend for the Achievement Award that later became the Maas Award. Diener put up the funds for the first award ever to the “blinded veteran making the most significant contribution to BVA.”