by Dale Stamper
Our local PBS television station, KWSU out of Pullman, Washington, recently carried a documentary on World War I. Anyone who studied World War I to any extent has learned, of course, that the mantra at the time was that World War I would be “the war to end all wars” as justification for the long and protracted series of battles.
Unfortunately, World War I did not end all wars. In fact, it could be argued that World War I was the catalyst for the 20th century bloodshed that followed. We had another world war and many subsequent conflicts covering the entire globe.
As a result of the conflicts and wars, we also have many more war veterans than ever before. Among them are visually impaired veterans. Therefore, the mission of the Blinded Veterans Association, founded in 1945, is as relevant and necessary as it was then. We are a group of blinded veterans helping blinded veterans and it is my belief that it is more important now than ever before to help one another.
As an organization we are losing our older members at an alarming rate. Just weeks ago, for example, we lost one of our most beloved BVA stalwarts at age 94. Major General Dick Fazakerley (Ret.) was a former National President, Director of the Field Service Program, and veteran of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Dale Stamper represented BVA at last year’s Veterans Day White House breakfast and later in the day at the traditional wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns.
Dick’s passing should remind us of the legacy established and left by those who have gone before us. Those who have studied BVA’s history recognize that our World War II veterans focused intensely on meeting the needs of their comrades. This was accomplished by several means but especially through moral support to those facing the challenges of vision loss, whether the loss occurred through combat injury or disease.
During the time I have served as president of my regional group, as the Director of District 4, and now as National President, I have gained a greater appreciation of the issues facing all blinded and visually impaired veterans.
Since I am totally blind with no light perception, things are always at least consistent for me. For many veterans, however, things can change visually for them when they pass from one room to another, or even when they walk down a hallway. I became more aware of these challenges when I served as the Chair of the 68th National Convention in Spokane. Our Convention Manager, Christina Hitchcock, was quick to point out potential difficulties for low-vision members of the organization as we walked through various hotels that were in the running to host the convention.
Over time, I have learned to be more aware of and sensitive to the needs of those with low vision in offering counsel, planning activities, and most recently presenting BVA’s oral testimony before the VA House and Senate Committees. I hope we can all become increasingly aware of the challenges facing one another and continue to serve our fellow blinded veterans with a greater passion, always remaining true to our simple but deeply important organizational motto: Blinded veterans helping blinded veterans.