by Mark Cornell
As my two years as your National President come to a close, my wife Chong, my daughters Gloria and Crystal, and I wish to sincerely express what an honor and privilege it has been for us to serve and represent you. I also thank our hard working and proactive Board of Directors for their unwavering support during my tenure.
I have had some amazing experiences as National President. I can only thank you, our membership, for your vote of confidence to allow me to serve in this manner.
I have been invited to the White House on two different Veterans Days, meeting with both the President and Vice President. I have also presented two Veterans Day wreaths at the hallowed Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. On two different occasions I have also outlined, once orally and twice in written statements, our legislative priorities and the things we have hoped to see accomplished before joint sessions of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs.
We still have work to do concerning “Catastrophically Disabled Access to Rehab” (H.R. 288). This relates to getting our nonservice-connected brothers and sisters to a BRC so they too can have the opportunity to learn how to survive after losing their vision. We are all in this together whether we are service connected or not. This, of course, falls under our motto of “Blinded Veterans Helping Blinded Veterans.”
I have also had the opportunity to attend the Biloxi BRC, essentially in order to refresh myself on things I have learned in the past. These include Orientation and Mobility Training, Manual Skills, and even Cooking. I was also able to learn about the new Apple computer systems under the tutelage of Mr. Tim Sniffen, my team leader and mentor.
On the basis of what I gained during my experience, I ask you who have had doubts about attending a BRC to please reconsider. As I found out, one actually can “teach new tricks to an old dog!”
I also had the honor of establishing the first Operation Peer Support Committee, which brought me the honor of receiving an invitation and then participating in “Project Gemini” from May 30 until June 8. I traveled to London with Tom Zampieri and other peer support veterans to take part in the centennial celebration of Blind Veterans UK.
I soon enter the ranks of Past National Presidents. I have also spent the last 19 years as a member of BVA, serving from the start as a regional group officer, member of the National Board of Directors, and National President. I will also be the Immediate Past National President for two more years for a total of 21 years on the Board.
I again wish to thank you for your confidence as I have attempted to lead BVA in a new direction. I hope you will show the next elected President as much support as you’ve given me for nearly two decades of service. I will continue to uphold the motto that has been BVA’s for nearly 70 years.
So, until we meet again soon in Louisville, I wish to again state the following: Thanks to you and thanks to your families for the sacrifices you all have made in trying to make BVA better at both the grassroots level and at the national level. May God bless you and may God bless these United States of America.