Executive Director’s Page

Executive Director Al Avina
by Al Avina

Fellow Blinded Veterans:

The time has come once more for all blind veterans to stand up and unite, just as our founding members did in 1945 at Avon Old Farms.

One body, one vision, one mission, and one resounding voice that refuses to be ignored.

BVA was created and established by and for blind veterans to mutually aid one another in maximizing each individual’s independence. Pretty words, aren’t they? But they are meaningless if we are not actively doing the work.

Raymond T. Frey, a prominent BVA founding member and our first National President during 1945-46, briefly outlined the Association’s early years in our 50th anniversary special issue of the Bulletin published in 1995.

Ray refers to the enthusiasm and anticipation that accompanied the inaugural meeting in Connecticut. He also mentions the strength of early regional groups as the impetus for BVA’s rapid early growth.

Ray writes further about BVA’s unity of purpose in advocating for a VA residential Blind Rehabilitation Center, which eventually opened at Hines in 1948. He mentions the significance of the organization’s appointment by General Omar Bradley to become the official representative of blinded veteans for filing claims and appeals.

Sadly, many have either forgotten our purpose or never learned our history. Worse yet, those who can clearly communicate fall short on delivering the most important part of one’s rehabilitation, which is “peer mentoring.” Meeting once a year for a dinner and the election of officers during a regional group meeting constitutes the bare minimum to keep a group afloat. Where is the meaningful work of blinded veterans helping blinded veterans in that activity?

I know that there are some of you out there who are active in your regional groups and districts and who are talking about the issues and challenges we are facing. I do want to commend those who are actually “doing” and not just “complaining."

Too many of us have been lulled into an attitude of complacency with the numerous “thank you for your service” comments that we receive from civilians on a regular basis. While it is somewhat nice to be recognized for our service, let us not forget that “duty requires no thanks.” It is that same sense of “Duty” that inspired our founding members to accomplish so much in ensuring that the needs and services of blinded veterans were being addressed at the highest levels of government.

So, where is your allegiance to BVA? Where is the work, the peer mentoring, and most importantly, your duty? Every one of our founding members in some way gave of themselves to help another blinded veteran. Where has that attitude gone?

The time is now to stand, to be counted, to be heard, and, most importantly, to do the work. Get involved and don’t just make a difference. Be the difference in another blind veteran’s life.