Of Note

Applications are Being Accepted for 2018-19 Scholarships

BVA will award seven total scholarships for the 2018-19 school year, six under the Kathern F. Gruber classification and one through the Thomas H. Miler program.

The Gruber scholarships are valued at $2,000 each and the Miller stipend is for $1,000.

The Miller program, now in its sixth year, requires the same application process and qualifications as the Gruber awards but has an added emphasis on music and the fine arts. The scholarship committee will choose seven recipients and two alternates.

Dependent children, grandchildren, and spouses of both blinded veterans and active duty blinded service members of the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible for the scholarships. The veteran or service member must be legally blind and the blindness may be either service connected or nonservice connected. He/She need not be a member of the Blinded Veterans Association.

To be eligible for the scholarship, an applicant must have been accepted for admission, or already be enrolled, as a full-time student in an accredited institution of higher education or business, secretarial, or vocational training school.

BVA began its first scholarship program 35 years ago. The awards are intended to defray a student’s educational expenses, including tuition, books, and other academic fees. Scholarship payments will be made by BVA directly to the educational institution.

The scholarships will be awarded on a “most-highly-qualified basis utilizing the following criteria: answers to questions on the application form; transcripts of high school and/or college records; three letters of reference; and a 300-word essay relating to the applicant’s career goals and aspirations as well as past awards and achievements.

Scholarships are awarded for one year only. Applicants are advised that the BVA National Board of Directors has determined that Gruber and Miller Scholarship recipients are limited to a total of four scholarships during their college careers.

Applications for the scholarships may be accessed and downloaded at bva.org, by emailing the request to bjones@bva.org or by sending a written request via postal mail to BVA National Headquarters, 125 N. West Street, 3rd Floor, Alexandria, VA 22314.

Completed applications and supporting materials must be returned to BVA no later than Friday, April 20, 2018. Due to time constraints related to processing the applications for the scholarship committee’s review, applications arriving subsequent to the aforementioned deadline will not be accepted. Incomplete applications will not be submitted to the scholarship committee. It is the responsibility of the applicant, not BVA, to ensure a complete application.

VA Announces Rollout and Application Process for New Veterans ID Card

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that the application process for the national Veterans Identification Card (VIC) is now available for Veterans — yet another action honoring their service.

This has been mandated through legislation since 2015 to honor Veterans, and today’s rollout of the ID card fulfills that overdue promise.

Only those Veterans with honorable service will be able to apply for the ID card, which will provide proof of military service, and may be accepted by retailers in lieu of the standard DD-214 form to obtain promotional discounts and other services where offered to Veterans.

“The new Veterans Identification Card provides a safer and more convenient and efficient way for most Veterans to show proof of service,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. “With the card, Veterans with honorable service to our nation will no longer need to carry around their paper DD-214s to obtain Veteran discounts and other services.”

The VIC provides a more portable and secure alternative for those who served the minimum obligated time in service, but did not meet the retirement or medical discharge threshold. Veterans who served in the armed forces, including the reserve components, and who have a discharge of honorable or general (under honorable conditions) can request a VIC.

To request a VIC, Veterans must visit vets.gov, click on “Apply for Printed Veteran ID Card” on the bottom left of the page and sign in or create an account.

Veterans who apply for a card should receive it within 60 days and can check delivery status of their cards at vets.gov. A digital version of the VIC will be available online by mid-December.

Blind War Veteran Earns Doctoral Degree

Story and photo Courtesy of Eagle-Tribune

Fifty years ago on Oct. 11, Gerard Boucher's life was forever changed.

That's the day a mortar round exploded and blinded Gerard Boucher, a Marine who was fighting in a Vietnamese jungle.

Fifty years after that fateful day, the decorated war veteran has earned his doctoral degree in sociology from Atlantic International University, which is based in Hawaii.

Boucher, 70, took classes online, using Jaws speech software for the blind. His 109 page doctoral thesis was titled, "Multicultural and Social Justice."

Boucher said it took him more than two years to earn his PhD, which he began studying for several months after his wife Janet died in December of 2014. He said studying became his therapy.

"This was one of the most important and imperative things I thought of, to keep my mind on something else rather the terrible death of my wife, who I had to make the decision of having to take her off of life support after battling COPD for five years. This will never leave my mind."

Before he could begin his studies, he called in a computer technician from the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, who updated Boucher's computer and speech software. He says software for the blind can often encounter difficulties reading websites and interacting with other programs that aren't compatible.

"I searched for a university that could accommodate me for obtaining my PhD," he said. "I wanted this degree to better myself and improve my specialty in advocating for the blind, disabled, the elderly and veterans, which I have been doing for more than 40 years."

He found that Atlantic University would accommodate his specific needs, and not require him to take the GRE over again.

The university also accepted homework in Word document format instead of other formats his computer had trouble with.

"The university sent me the work and then I proceeded to study day and night until I received my degree," he said.

Boucher communicated with his instructors by email and by phone, sometimes as often as daily.

"Sometimes it took me three or four weeks to finish an assignment," he said.

There were problems, such as when his computer could not translate certain class assignments.

"I'd explain the problem I was having and they'd make some changes that allowed my computer to better read the documents," he said. "Throughout the process, my biggest supporter was my sister, Janet DiBiaso who encouraged me to never give up and to stick with it."

Boucher earned his master's degree (also online) in rehabilitation counseling in 2001 from Thornwood University in the Netherlands, and his bachelor's degree in social studies from Bradford College in 1980.

Boucher, who served in the Marines during the Vietnam War, was blinded at age 20 by an exploding mortar round that killed a fellow Marine, while his squad was setting up a night ambush position in Phu Bai.

"The explosion knocked me to the ground and I was so angry and in pain that I reached for my by M60 machine gun to retaliate, but my comrades grabbed me and held me down," he said. "They gave me an anesthetic and the next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital."

Months later, while recuperating at the Chelsea Naval Hospital in Boston, he was given the bad news that his vision was permanently damaged.

"Regaining my health and my strength overwhelmed any feelings of blindness," he said. "I was glad to be alive."

He received a bronze star as well as three Purple Hearts and other commendations from the military.

For years Boucher, worked out of his home office, managing income properties he owned, while advocating for the blind and all disabled persons.

"Currently I communicate with legislators to advocate for bills related to the disabled, the blind and the elderly," he said. "Sometimes I'm at the state house testifying on a bill."

His affiliations are many and include the Blinded Veterans Association, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 20, and the local Marine Corps League, the American Council for the Blind, and the National Federation for the Blind. Boucher continues to serve as a member of Haverhill's Commission on Disabilities Issues.

Gerard Boucher wearing dark eye glasses, a jacket with service ribbons over the left pocket, in his library, surrounded by books, photos, and a display box of medals. He is proudly holding his framed Doctorate for the camera.

Gerard Boucher wearing dark eye glasses, a jacket with service ribbons over the left pocket, in his library, surrounded by books, photos, and a display box of medals. He is proudly holding his framed Doctorate for the camera.

Boucher grew up on Hilldale Avenue and attended St. Joseph School, then Haverhill Trade School, where he was an honor-roll student in the machine shop program. In 1966, at age 19, and just a few months after graduating trade school, he enlisted in the Marines.

"I didn't want to get drafted as I was hoping for a chance to work in my trade, but instead of a job in a machine shop they gave me a machine gun," he said. "The war supposed to be over soon but it didn't work out that way."

After his return from overseas duty, he attended Northern Essex Community College part-time starting in 1970, and eventually earned an associate's degree in liberal arts.

He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Human Studies (sociology) at Bradford College, then attended the Lee Institute and obtained his real estate broker's license.

That wasn't enough for Boucher. He earned his paralegal certificate, then a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling from Thornwood University. He was recently awarded his doctoral degree in sociology and human services.

"I'll continue my advocacy with more expertise while continuing to work on a book about my experiences in Vietnam and the war in general," he said. "I'm giving it the title, 'We won the battles, Washington lost the war."

Anyone with book writing expertise who is willing to assist Boucher in finishing his book can contact him at 978-521-3982.

Audio Version Of Of Note