by Dale Stamper
I began writing this message for our Bulletin readers on September 12. Later that morning, I participated in a 9/11 Day of Remembrance ceremony and was privileged to lay a wreath on behalf of BVA.
It has been 15 years since that day became solidly fixed in the memories of all of us. My wife, Cora, and I were in Canada with my nephew and his wife on a short two-day holiday. We woke up to the shocking news of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers.
Just three months short of 60 years earlier, another generation woke up to the news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.
These two events are tied together in the fabric of our national conscience. We will never forget where we were and what we were doing when these events took place.
The two events are also connected to the Blinded Veterans Association. BVA was established by a small group of optimistic and energetic World War II blinded veterans to meet the needs of those returning with vision loss. In like manner, although at least two generations separate these two groups, we have blinded veterans today that have served in response to the attack on September 11, 2001 in Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn.
Just like the World War II generation, many men and women, some young and some older, responded to the call to defend the nation and immediately volunteered to serve. Also similar is the approach taken by those who have now returned with loss of vision to face their futures. They are doing so with hope and optimism. Many have great energy and purpose, exemplified by their participation in activities promoted and/or organized through BVA’s Operation Peer Support initiative. The two groups are most definitely bound together by these similarities and perhaps by many others.
As Americans, we have a marvelous heritage and tradition of citizens rallying for a cause. It can be traced back to Minutemen gathering at Lexington and Concord. Volunteers following Andrew Jackson to the Battle of New Orleans continued the legacy. The same can be said of the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who willingly served in World Wars I and II, Korea, the Gulf War, and Vietnam.
We also recognize the bravery and integrity of those first responders on September 11, 2001. I proudly represented BVA as our community conducted the “Day of Remembrance” ceremony, honoring those who served. Because two sixth grade classes were in attendance, this occasion, for me, was an opportunity to participate in something that recognized the passing on of a heritage of selfless service to the next generation.
It was also an opportunity to let others know who we are as blinded veterans, and that there is an organization that both serves us and which offers us opportunities to serve one another.
Retiring House Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller warmly greeted Dale Stamper prior to BVA oral testimony back on March 3. Christine Kinnard, Co-Chair for the Government Relations Committee of the Gold Star Wives of America, looks on.