Around BVA

Crossfit Marathon Supports OKI Group

Blinded vets Bryan Corcoran, lower middle, and Director of District 2 David Fox, one row above in middle. Immediate left of David: Bryan’s wife, Aubrey Corcoran. Immediate right of Bryan: 12-year-old Patrick Corcoran.

Blinded vets Bryan Corcoran, lower middle, and Director of District 2 David Fox, one row above in middle. Immediate left of David: Bryan’s wife, Aubrey Corcoran. Immediate right of Bryan: 12-year-old Patrick Corcoran.

Blinded veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps Bryan Corcoran and his wife, Aubrey, helped put together a charity crossfit marathon of some 20 participants to support Bryan’s Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana (OKI) Regional Group.

The event, which took place on Memorial Day (May 30), was publicized and organized by the Countryside YMCA in the town of Lebanon, Ohio, where Aubrey works as a part-time fitness instructor. The Countryside facility is the largest YMCA facility in the United States with more than 1,000 members, despite its location in a small town some 45 minutes from Dayton.

“This was a most thoughtful idea for Aubrey to come up with and a generous thing for the YMCA to do for us,” said Director of District 2 Dave Fox, who attended the marathon with his wife, Carol, and guide dog Manhattan. “How many people in this country would do something like this out of the blue?”

The marathon was a four-hour event consisting of running, pull-ups, squats, and weight lifting. Dave observed the events and shared BVA information and promotional items with the participants and volunteers. The event also included a commemorative T-shirt.

Bryan Corcoran joined BVA in Hawaii and moved to the OKI Regional Group within the past year. He also attended the recent BVA 71st National Convention. He and Aubrey have five children ranging from age 5 to 16.

“Our thanks go out to Bryan, Aubrey, and the YMCA for their efforts on our behalf,” said Dave. “Hopefully there can be another one like it next year or at some other point in the near future when we as a regional group can get more involved in publicizing the event and then participate ourselves.”

Veterans Care Reviews To Resume in Early 2017

BVA will resume its Veterans Care Reviews of VA programs for blinded veterans at the beginning of 2017. BVA Training Coordinator Wade Davis will again arrange and conduct the reviews.

The Veterans Care Review is a collaborative effort between BVA and VA to evaluate the full curriculum of care, to share best practices from each VA program, and to make needed recommendations to both the VA facility housing the program and to the VA Central Office in Washington.

The 2016 reviews occurred at the 13 BRCs across the VA system. Next year’s reviews will focus on Visual Impairment Services Outpatient Rehabilitation (VISOR) programs.

Forward Progress for New Resource Center

Front row, left to right: Claudia Belk, Maria Ingegneri, Joaquin Espinosa, and Chuck Smith. Back row: Wade Davis, Brenda Davis, and John Kessler.

Front row, left to right: Claudia Belk, Maria Ingegneri, Joaquin Espinosa, and Chuck Smith. Back row: Wade Davis, Brenda Davis, and John Kessler.

BVA’s Field Service Program (FSP) continues in its transition phase to more efficiently provide services to America’s blinded veterans as the FSP Resource Center enters its second year of operation.

Last year all of BVA’s National Field Service Regional Offices relocated to the Resource Center, which is housed at BVA National Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. All volunteer offices remain open.

Two staff members of the Resource Center not previously introduced in the Bulletin are National Service Officer Joaquin Espinosa and National Service Representative John Kessler.

Joaquin joined the Resource Center last January, moving to Virginia from his previous residence in Fresno, California.

“Of course I feel really good about being able to help veterans obtain the benefits they have earned,” he said. “It is a very fulfilling job that requires one to be sensitive and personal while remaining mentally tough at the same time.”

Somewhat difficult for Joaquin has been instances in which he has a work in progress, only to learn that the veteran he is assisting has suddenly passed away.

“Because this work is so personal, the potential exists for it to be painful too,” he said.

Joaquin was born and raised in Mexico City until the age of 11, when he moved to Texas. He graduated from high school in Keene, Texas, and attended Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. He later earned an Associate Degree and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Technology. He has experience in Special Education, having taught in San Antonio, in Keene, and at a Texas ranch for disabled youth 6-18 years old.

A Gulf War era veteran, Joaquin enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1983 and served until 1992. He was stationed in California, Texas, Camp Lejeune, and at a Navy base in Arizona just before the Gulf War ended.

“Because I was among the group involved with the launching of missiles, including the Patriot Missiles, I just missed going to Kuwait with our units being among the last ones held back,” he said. Joaquin remained in the Marine Reserves, which activated him immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Joaquin lost his vision totally in one eye a result of a botched surgery that attempted to treat an infection that caused swelling. The surgery burned the vessels behind the cornea. He is legally blind in the second eye resulting from diabetes.

John Kessler joind BVA in late August as a Field Service Representative. He hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps-Infantry for 11 years, which included five combat tours to the Middle East. John went to Iraq three times and twice to Afghanistan. He received several awards for meritorious and combat service, including the Purple Heart.

John relocated to Washington, D.C. in August 2015, and currently resides in Georgetown with his fiancée, Eriika. They plan to marry in December and are enthusiastically anticipating the birth of their first child in the early days of April 2017.

“I am excited to be working with the blinded veteran community and eager to make a difference in the lives of our veterans,” he said.

Myers Represents BVA At Local Dedication

Perennial BVA National Convention attendee George Myers, secretary-treasurer of the Arkansas Regional Group, is equally consistent in supporting events in his local area that honor veterans in any way.

On September 16, George joined leaders of other local Veterans Service Organizations at a new Veterans Monument donated by the Conway County Piecemakers, the latter of which was formed in late 2012 with the purpose of making quilts to comfort combat-injured servicemembers and veterans of the county. The quilts that are presented to the veterans are a minder of the Piecemakers’ appreciation and gratitude for their sacrifices and service.

The ceremony took place alongside the new monument on the lawn of St. Vincent CHI Hospital next to the renowned Veterans Walk of Flags permanent exhibition in Morrilton, Arkansas reported in the Summer 2013 Bulletin and which was supported by George on behalf of BVA.

On the front side of the monument is a colored U.S. flag with the inscription “ALL GAVE SOME…SOME GAVE ALL,” accompanied by emblems of five veterans organizations. On the reverse side is the inscription “HONORING OUR VETERANS-CONWAY COUNTY PIECEMAKERS,” accompanied below by an image of a woman in a long dress sewing a portion of a quilt at a round table.

Solemn Ceremonies Reunite Former BVA HQ Staff

Three significant figures from BVA’s past experienced a reunion of sorts on August 8 at Arlington National Cemetery as they paid their final respects to close friend and colleague General Richard (Dick) G. Fazakerley.

General Fazakerley was BVA’s 29th National President (1995-97) and former Director of the Field Service Program (1988-92). He passed away on March 17, 2016.

Tom Miller, former Director of Government Relations (1986-94) and Executive Director (1994-2011), delivered one of the eulogies at a service in the Old Post Chapel at Fort Myer, Virginia. Following the service, the funeral processional proceeded to the cemetery and the site where General Fazakerley was laid to rest and afforded full military honors.

Accompanying Tom as his sighted guide was former Coordinator of Communications Chris Bentley (1992-2000). Former Administrative Director John Williams (1989-2004) also attended the services.

Avid Reader Turns Author

Ricky Douglas is a member of the Greater Houston Regional Group, an avid reader recently turned published author with Checkered Past, a novel about bad boy Billy Rodriguez and Warden Sharon Goldburg. She worries that a lifetime of good deeds may not save her once Billy turns up in her prison. Billy brings with him secrets from her past capable of destroying her reputation, her career, and her marriage, as well as the loss of her freedom.

The book was released on July 27.

“Nothing foils the enjoyment of a good book for me faster than being able to figure out the plot long before the end, “said Ricky. “If there are not enough twists and turns and blind alleys in a story to keep me guessing, I quickly lose interest.”.

Because Ricky had read so many such books, he decided that he could do better and set out to do just that.

“I quickly learned that I enjoyed writing even more than I enjoyed reading,” he said.

A former Marine, Ricky has several other projects in varying degrees of completion. He enlisted in August 1974. Totally blind due to complications of diabetes since late 2003, Ricky stopped his writing for a while.

In Checkered Past, the plot thickens when Billy’s power over Sharon as a result of his knowledge, something he is quick to point out to her, presents a problem Sharon cannot handle alone. She must trust someone, but trusting the wrong someone could cost her everything she spent a lifetime to build.

Checkered Past is available to order online and through major bookstores and outlets nationwide.

Audio Version Of Around BVA