District 2 Director’s Report
by Tim Hornik
BVA entered my life as my family and I transitioned from the military to civilian life. We approached this process by openly discussing our thoughts, goals, and concerns. BVA as an organization stands at a similar point. This past year brought about a tremendous amount of change. New District Directors represent normal changes within the structure of the organization, while our new Executive Director and discussions about a new home for BVA caught many off guard. Just as my family and I boldly faced our personal challenges transitioning, I encourage we each openly and professionally engage with regional group leaders, us District Directors, and senior BVA leadership in discussing your questions and ideas for furthering our motto to support our fellow veterans with visual impairments.
The first discussions occurred during the National Convention. Within the District 2 Caucus, the assembled regional group delegates and members reviewed and felt strongly about the financial positioning and actions of BVA. We also agreed upon establishing a District 2 teleconference that will occur on the second Monday of each month at 1:00 pm Central Time. But the best example of our membership speaking up about the direction of BVA transpired during the business meeting with the election of the new officers and establishing the $25 life membership.
The next step in our transition process is the most important, executing our mission. We each possess the latest BVA handouts, brochures, and membership applications to share, but our peers and the general public desire proof through action. It pleases me to know that throughout September and well into November, District 2 regional groups unified our membership through special events and activities.
The Michigan, Heartland, and Wisconsin Regional Groups deserve a round of applause for their successes throughout September. Regional Group collaborated with the VIST program to unite blinded Veterans together for a day of fishing. The heartland Regional Group took it a step further by being represented alongside the Eastern Kansas VIST program and throwing out the first pitch on September 11th at the Kansas City Royals versus Chicago White Sox military appreciation game. The Pièce De Résistance comes from Wisconsin’s 3rd annual Visually Impaired Persons Experiencing the Road (VIPER) Ride. This incredible opportunity pairs blinded Veterans, aka tail gunners, with a motorcyclist pilot, on a fun day of cruising the road. The event features a great lunch where everyone celebrates the remarkable achievements held by all.
Our momentum continued into October with White Cane Day celebrations. Once again the strong partnerships built between VIST and other BRS programs and our regional groups inspired and informed countless veterans. The Wisconsin, Michigan, Heartland, and other Regional Groups staffed tables at their VAMC and other public locations. A great example is the Heartland Regional Group hosting their midyear meeting at the National World War I Museum and Memorial, uniting blinded veterans from the VIST support groups from the Columbia, Kansas City, and Eastern Kansas VAMC. As a special note, BVA members from Ohio accompanied me during the inaugural ceremonies for the new Veterans Museum in Columbus, OH. We proudly presented BVA’s colors alongside our fellow VSO’s.
Regional groups to individual members contributed towards BVA’s notoriety with various other actions and events. Sean Wilbur from the Nebraska Regional Group enabled seven airmen the ability to celebrate the Air Force’s birthday. Danny Wallace and Timothy Hornik were guided by Greg Miller and Matthew Battiston as they carried the American flag over 160 miles over two days by running and cycling in support of the Team, Red, White, and Blue Old Glory Relay. Getting the vote out, regional groups and VIST programs throughout the district offered accessible voter education sessions, so our peers may uphold the sacred duties for all citizens we served to protect. Finally, countless of our regional group leaders and volunteers spent countless hours talking with other blinded veterans, educating each other on the actions of BVA to recent personal achievements.
This is just a small sampling of what is possible when regional groups forge a strong relationship with their members, VIST coordinators, and community entities. The Blinded Veterans Association relies on the service you each provide, for without your selfless service, there is no one else left to ensure blinded veterans have the knowledge, resources, and encouragement to take their rightful place within their communities. I hope these examples inspires each of you to devise anything from an awesome group activity to simply calling a fellow veteran between now and the next issue of the BVA bulletin.