BVA Members, Friends Honor All Veterans
Blinded veterans and their families coast to coast remembered their comrades from all branches and eras of service during regional group activities, ceremonies, parades, receptions, and meal gatherings at homes, businesses, schools, and restaurants.
The events on November 11, 2015, and those of the week or so leading up to it, reached their crescendo with 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 Dale Stamper and his wife, Cora, attended a White House breakfast hosted by President Barack Obama. Two short hours later, at precisely 11 a.m., the two witnessed a Presidential wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns in near summer-like temperatures. The Presidential laying of the wreath also included Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region/U.S. Army Military District of Washington Commanding General Bradley A. Becker.
Cora Stamper joins Al Avina in Memorial Amphitheater box seat after witnessing Presidential Wreath Ceremony at Tomb of the Unknowns with husband Dale. The latter was seated with leaders from each organization comprising the National Veterans Day Committee immediately behind VA Secretary Robert McDonald and President Barack Obama.
Dale was seated center stage with other VSO National Commanders and National Presidents at the traditional ceremony in the cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater. Repeating their Memorial Day performance five months earlier, Ed Eckroth and Wade Davis marched with the American and BVA flags down an amphitheater ramp and then up again during the awe-inspiring Processions of Colors to open and close the event.
Ed Eckroth and Wade Davis, left and right, respectively, represented BVA with the American and organizational flags in the traditional Procession of Colors that officially began the program.
Prayers for veterans were offered by Chaplain Michael McCoy, Associate Director of VA Chaplain Service.
Also present were Vice President Joe Biden and Captain Florent Groberg, the nation’s most recent Medal of Honor recipient for heroic acts in Afghanistan.
Norbert Ryan, President of the Military Officers Association of America, spoke first. MOAA served as this year’s host organization representing the Veterans Day National Committee. Other speakers were VA Secretary Robert McDonald and President Obama. The music was provided by The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own.”
“Our tributes today will ring hollow if we do not ensure that our veterans receive the care that they have earned and deserve,” said President Obama. “The unacceptable problems that we’ve seen—like long wait times, and some veterans are not getting the timely care that they need—is a challenge for all of us if we are to match our words with deeds.”
Following the ceremony, Dale, Wade, and Al Avina presented the BVA wreath at the aforementioned Tomb of the Unknowns accompanied by a VFW escort.
Flanked by VFW escort and accompanied by guide dog Katy, Dale Stamper, Wade Davis, and Al Avina prepare to offer solemn salute as they present BVA wreath at Tomb of the Unknowns.
Following the wreath presentation, the BVA contingency participated in an MOAA-hosted reception at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial just outside the main gates of the cemetery.
On November 10, National Service Officer Wanda Grover joined VA medical service and information service personnel, VBA officials, and representatives of other VSOs in disseminating information at a health fair co-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 Wanda. She was recognized at the event for her military service during the Vietnam era (see Final Thought). The 2015 theme of the patriotic ceremony of music and spoken tributes to veterans was “50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, Honoring All Who Served.”
On November 8, trainees staying at the Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center in West Haven joined the Connecticut Regional Group to participate with some 3,000 other marchers in the 16th annual Connecticut Veterans Parade in downtown Hartford. The event has the greatest number of participants of any Veterans Day parade in New England and is among the largest salutes to veterans in the United States.
Left to right, EBRC trainee Betty Clarke; Melissa Suess, Blind Rehabilitation National Consultant; Connecticut Regional Group member Robert Harriman; Austin Grimshaw, grandson of Past Director of District 1 David VanLoan, Sr.; David VanLoan, Jr., who transported the group; David VanLoan, Sr.; and Connecticut Regional Group President Randall Henry.
On October 21, in Conway County, Arkansas (City of Morrilton), representatives of BVA, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 13, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4453, the Plumerville Veterans Association, and the American Legion gathered at the county’s Department of Human Services Building for a flag-raising ceremony and musical selections by fourth graders that inaugurated a new flag pole and accompanying plaque naming the contributing organizations. BVA life member George Myers made the donation himself personally but in the name of BVA.
Like many other blinded veterans throughout the country, George was invited to two local schools for Veterans Day programs. At Wonderview Elementary School and High School, also in Conway County, George again made a financial contribution on November 9 in the name of BVA to help the sixth graders defray the costs of refreshments for invited guests.
The Blinded Veterans Association is recognized on a plaque next to a newly dedicated flagpole in Morrilton, Arkansas, thanks to the personal generosity of Arkansas Regional Group life member George Myers, middle. Photo courtesy of Petit Jean Country Headlight Newspaper of Morrilton, Arkansas.
“The kindergarteners also put together a plaque with individual messages and small drawings for the vets on that day,” said George. “It was really touching.”
George participated in still another school ceremony and lunch, this one at Morrilton High School on Veterans Day itself.