Operation Peer Support

Operation Peer Support (OPS) is a program designed by the Blinded Veterans Association to assist blind and visually impaired veterans and their families with educational resources and adaptive sports in order to regain independence, social skills, and confidence through rehabilitation.  

On December 2, 11 blinded veterans ran amongst the 48 blind and visually impaired runners during the California International Marathon.  Here a blinded runner is shown with his Guide approaching the finish line.

Program - Blinded Veterans Run
Program - National Disabled Veterans Tee Tournament

Michaun Harrison attempts a putt during the National Disabled Veterans Tee Tournament held September 9-14, 2018.

Emerald Coast Regional Group President Darryl Goldsmith proudly displays his prize catch of the day  sponsored by Heroes On The Water. Darryl was the #1 Fisherman with a catch of 29 fish. He caught 5 Amberjacks 40 inches long

Darryl Goldsmith with his catch of the day

Operation Peer Support Sponsored May 2019 Event

The 2019 Project Gemini BVUK exchange program is May 17th-25th, 2019 in
Brighton, UK in which three OPS veterans and one sighted guide will participate
in the exchange program with BVUK veterans. During this time the veterans will
experience the BVUK veterans and share knowledge, insights, and friendship with
also South African war blinded veterans for seven busy days. The exchange will
again address the similarities and goals to partner in military eye trauma,
Traumatic Brain Injury, Vision research, and history from World War One to today
vision rehabilitation programs offered to veterans within each of the three countries
represented. Adaptive sports for the blind will be put to practical use during the
week with variety of events, along with a tour of the Blind Veterans UK
rehabilitation Brighton center, and visits to nearby historic sites.
During the exchange, both groups of veterans will also share about coping with
blindness and the “war stories” that are part of their personal peer support adjustment to blindness and subsequent rehabilitation. 

Participants consist of the following: 

  • Retired U.S. Army Captain Rain Rich, Former U.S. Navy Petty Officer
  • Lonnie Bedwell, Former Seaman of U.S. Navy
  • Lawrence Harrison, sighted guide
  • Retired U.S. Army First Sergeant Reynaldo Reyes

Contact Persons for Interview:
Rain Rich
Phone: 850-781-3221
Lawrence Harrison:
Phone: 202-247-1954

 

Operation Peer Support will host the 2019 Survived and Fierce Ranger
Appalachian Trail March in the Northern Appalachian Trails in Georgia starting
May 28, 2019. This event will consist of a first time 4-blinded female veteran
team (Jeanie Murphy, Shianti Lee, Marlene Davis-Lilly, and Monaca Gilmore) in
which all are members of Blinded Veterans Association. This blinded veteran
team will participate and conquer several days of adventurous hiking. Overall, this
event will allow a diverse and dedicated group of veterans to persevere through the
challenges presented by training and the natural environment. Multiple news
agencies have committed to support this mission with much needed press to bring
awareness to the Blinded Veterans Association. This is an all exclusive trip which
includes lodging, transportation, and meals.

Contact Persons for Interview:
Name: Jeanie Murphy
Phone: 785-410-6575
Team Leader: Monaca Gilmore
Phone: 252-822-348
Email: pettisgilmore@yahoo.com

Operation Peer Support Sponsored June 2019 Event

Operation Peer Support partners with the Blind Endeavors to host a Blind
Endeavors Ranger Endeavor June 2nd-8th, 2019. This event will consist of some members of the Blinded Veterans Association who will complete complicated ranger tasks and skills on the Northern Appalachian Trails. Some of the tasks will consist of the following: climbing, rappelling, range shooting, and possible water operations. The team will carry required equipment and rations to sustain themselves between mission support sites (MSS) where additional supplies will be located. MS sites will be pre-established by a support team that will provide a Spartan, but adequate camp for the teams each evening. The participants will prove that vision loss is no more than an obstacle that can be overcome with hard word
and a never dying sprit.

Contact Persons for Interview:

Name: Steve Baskis
Phone: 970-260-1380
Name: Joe Amerling
Phone: 678-983-3873

A: An ongoing effort to link recently blinded veterans with other OIF/OEF blinded service members and their counterparts from previous conflicts. Operation Peer Support’s highest priority is to assist these men and women through the process of adjustment to vision loss by introducing them to and connecting them with the tools and resources they will need to establish new goals. “Blinded Veterans Helping Blinded Veterans” is the Association’s motto and serves as the ideal in its advocacy efforts on behalf of all blinded veterans.

A: Physical and emotional isolation is a huge issue for those who have only recently lost their eyesight. The process of recovery from any tragic or traumatic event is characterized by a period of grieving followed by rehabilitation and restoration. The life cycle of a wounded soldier often consists of six states: injury, treatment, rehabilitation, evaluation, transition and maintenance. Substantial changes are required as a result of such shattering events before a meaningful and productive new life can be achieved. Similar to the grief experienced by people following any catastrophic event, blinded veterans must also grieve over their loss of vision. The veterans attending the BVA convention meet with other OIF and OEF veterans who are among the few who understand what they are truly going through. They will also be able to meet veterans blinded in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. They will hear and gain strength from their experiences. Throughout the process, BVA will be there in a variety of ways, but primarily through its Veteran Services Program, to help service members and their families along the way.

A: Exact numbers are hard to come by but 4,790 service members with penetrating eye injuries have been evacuated from OIF and OEF operations as of November 2008. The long-term consequences of these injuries are still unknown. More than 500 have eye injuries that classify them as low-vision. According to VA Blind Rehabilitation Service, at least 140 of these are legally blind as of May 2009. The Army in March 2008 reported that 395 service members had been blinded in one eye. The statistics on Marines and those in other branches of service have not yet been disclosed.

A: Tax-deductible donations can be made directly to the Blinded Veterans Association by mail or phone by credit card. BVA can also be reached at 800-669-7079. Please help these brave American service members and family members get the support they need from fellow blinded veterans. The organization is a 501(c)(3) organization, ID #53-0214281.