Major General Melvin J. Mass Achievement Award
The Major General Melvin J. Maas Achievement Award is the most prestigious award which the BVA presents. This award is presented annually at the Awards Banquet of the BVA National Convention to the veteran, with service-connected blindness, who has proven himself/herself outstanding in his/her field of employment and in his/her adjustment to daily living. The Maas Award was initiated by the late Bayard H. Kendrick, the famous mystery writer and author of Lights Out, the story of a World War II blinded veteran; Major General Melvin J. Maas.
Maas was born in 1898 of Minnesota and later went on to be elected to Congress in 1926 where he would serve until 1944. Maas left congress to serve his country during WWI in the Marine Corps Reserve where he would go on to become Major General and serve throughout WW2 where he was wounded by bomb fragments and left blind. He did not let his disability stop him from serving his country and in turn he became the first active duty blind general. In 1952 Maas retired from the reserves due to his blindness. Being a man of perseverance, he chose to find new ways to serve his country and from 1954-1964 he would serve as the chairman of the President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped. During this time he would also serve as President of BVA and aid in the creation of a positive image of the blind community and their potential. The Major General Melvin J. Maas award seeks to honor an individual who has contributed to the positive image of the blind community set forth so many years ago. Winners of this award are men and women with service connected blindness who have overcome their disability to become independent in their daily living. In honor of Maas, nominations should be individuals who have found success in their employment despite their vision loss and helped other blinded veterans find independence as well. Before his death Maas was quoted in the New York Times stating, “A handicapped person who lives up to his potential leads a more successful life than the so‐called normal person who uses only 50 percent of his capabilities.”