Honoring our POWs

 

Vice President GRG Floyd B. Everett joins many Veterans Service Organizations standing tall during ceremonies at the Georgia State Capital in honor of POWs and MIAs. 

 

Blind Veteran Tosses Out First Pitch at Kauffman Stadium

Courtesy of Mark Roundtree / mrountree@leavenworth

 

On Nov. 11, 2004, U.S. Army Capt. Tim Hornik was on patrol in Baghdad when he was shot in the head by a sniper. It resulted in the total loss of his eyesight.

Since then, the 38-year-old has been on a mission to demonstrate that people with impaired vision can do anything.

Hornik was among 13 visually impaired veterans who regularly receive treatment and support from the Veteran’s Administration. They were the special guests of the Kansas City Royals for their game against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on the 17th anniversary of 9/11.

“I’m ecstatic that this all came together,” Hornik said. “You can’t replace what the VA does for veterans.”

Hornik threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Flanked by program members and active duty members of the armed forces, – as well as his service dog Barney, a black Labrador – the right-hander stood in front of the mound, was directed where to throw and tossed the pitch to backup catcher Cam Gallagher.

The pre-game ceremonies on Armed Forces Night included the color guard from Fort Leavenworth and a flyover by a Stealth bomber from Whiteman Air Force Base.

There are approximately 200 veterans in the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System’s visually impaired program.

“They leave me speechless,” said Dawn Clouse, program director. “They are such special people. Tim is a perfect example. He’s all about other people. He’s all about educating that visually impaired people can do anything.”

After the first pitch, Hornik was presented the ball. He then gave the ball to Clouse, who organized the trip along with Joe Burks, public affairs officer for the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System.

Clouse said the VA tries to do at least two significant outings each year with the visually impaired group.

“The group is just veterans coming together to interact and regain a sense of independence,” Hornik said.

Not all of the veterans are 100 percent blind. Clouse said the majority of the members in the group have age-related or disease-related visual impairments. Only a few, like Hornik, are blind because of combat injuries.

Bernard Hoffman, a 93-year-old World War II veteran of the Army Air Corps, is a member of the program as well. He visited throughout the evening with Hornik and others at the game.

“He’s very personable and congenial,” Hoffman said. “This program is good for him and all of us. It’s a marvelous program.”

Hornik was just as impressed with Hoffman.

“The intergenerational aspect of this program is an amazing thing,” Hornik said. “They have some amazing stories. For us in the younger generation, we are carrying their stories into the future.”

Hornik is the CEO of the Blind Not Alone organization and serves as the director of District 2 of the Blinded Veterans Association.

He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife and daughters. In addition to his outreach efforts in support of the visually impaired, he takes part in adaptive sports such as tandem cycling and running.

“It’s an honor to be able to recognize veterans who have done so much for our country on Armed Forces Day, especially our visually impaired veterans here tonight,” said Rudy Klopfer, director of the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System.

 

VA Adaptive Sports/Activities at National TEE Tournament

by Paul Kaminsky USN/Ret

 

I am a retired Navy veteran, BVA Life Member and returned once again to what was the 25th annual National Disabled Veterans TEE Tournament in Iowa.

As a 30-year Navy veteran, sports or physical activities were very much a part of my general nature. Basketball, volleyball, bowling and especially golf were a major part of my physical activities. At the age of 32, when I first began to lose my vision due to macular degeneration, I believed the days of playing my beloved past times were over.

I was a seven handicap back in the good old days, and thought I had put away my golf clubs for good. Then I learned about the National Disabled Veterans TEE Tournament in Iowa from other BVA members. Since the first experience I have made the trek from Florida to Iowa for the annual event 14 times. My vision allows me mostly peripheral sight, but nothing in front of me. I can make out an image of the course but not some of the hazard areas and definitely not where the ball goes. But once my golf buddy lines me up, the muscle memory is still there."

Last year, I had my first hole-in-one. I was quite surprised of the Ace, but I'm used to disabled veterans overcoming obstacles whether on the course or in life in general. I guess that's why I'm out there. I can show other veterans that we can do this! 

Another great thing about the Iowa TEE Tournament is that I don't make the trek to the midwest on my own. My wife Maureen joins me and takes advantage of the companion program available to the veteran's partner or caregiver. Our partners, spouses, or caregivers drop us veterans off where we are kept active so they can relax and have fun. My wife continues to enjoy the companion activities year after year and looks forward to it every year.

While the companion program provides rest and recreation, it also offers a valuable network for the caregivers and companions. As the veterans connect with other veterans, the spouses, partners and caregivers likewise meet new people and get to talking and compare lives and note that they share some of the same experiences. My wife tells me it helps to know she is not by herself. She also says it gives her emotional support. My wife has said, "It's relaxing for Paul and he gets time with friends; I love seeing him have fun."

The TEE Tournament is not just about golf. Other activities such as kayaking, horseshoes, horseback riding, bowling, and for the past couple of years tandem bikes have been brought in to provide veterans with the experience of tandem bike riding. Plus, the TEE is not just for those who play golf, it is also for those that might wish to learn about the art of golf and be learning from a real golf Pro. Many of the participants are first-timers to the sport.

The National Disabled Veterans TEE Tournament is but just one of the VA adaptive sports and arts clinics sponsored by the VA. Here are the available clinics provided by the VA for disabled veterans:

1.      National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic

2.      National Veterans Golden Age Games

3.      National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic

4.      National Veterans Wheelchair Games

5.      National Veterans Creative Arts Competition

6.      National Disabled Veterans TEE Tournament

 

For more information on the VA adaptive clinics talk with your VIST Coordinator or visit: https://www.blogs.va.gov/nvspse/

I would encourage all to try to attend one or more of these adaptive clinics. Some of the members at the TEE Tournament were in their 90’s and having a great time. The TEE this year had over 400 applicants and approximately 280 participants. There were almost 800 volunteers working together to make the veterans week long activities relaxing and stress free. Each morning breakfast began at 6 am and golfing began around 8 am. There were multiple golf courses which completely closed down so the veterans had total access to each of them. After a day of golf or other assigned activities a terrific dinner spread was set up and everyone enjoyed a great meal. After dinner the TEE would have entertainment or other fun activities. It was basically so busy that once you got into bed, the next thing you knew was it was 6 am again. Another great aspect of the TEE is that it is held at the Riverside Casino. So, if you wish to challenge Lady Luck this is the place where that is possible. Again, check with your VIST Coordinator for more information.