Blinded Vets Revel in Milestone, Reflect on Future Challenges
Members of the Blinded Veterans Association across a spectrum that
now spans 65 years joined together with their families, the
organization’s national staff, vendors, presenters, and other friends
for a lightning-quick week of urgent Association business, presentations
on technology and aids for the blind, an exhibit hall of more than 45
booths, and visits to historical sites, museums, and special programs.
It all took place August 24-28, 2010 at Arlington, Virginia’s
Marriott Crystal Gateway Hotel just across the Potomac River from our
Nation’s Capital and BVA’s National Headquarters building in the
Chinatown District of the city. Several convention attendees made their
way to check out the historic building.
Left to right, Massachusetts blinded veterans
Randy Durrigan (Vietnam era), Cliff Fisher, and Earl Caudill. The latter
two both served in World War II and attended a BVA National Convention
for the first time.
The 357 total convention attendees, of which 147 were BVA members,
were joined down the hall and throughout hotel guest facilities by a
similar gathering of approximately 370 Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA) Blind Rehabilitation Service officials who were simultaneously
attending their own annual conference and using every available
opportunity to check out the BVA exhibit hall.
“This convention is still one more BVA milestone that links
veterans of today with those of yesteryear,” said BVA Executive Director
Tom Miller. “Considering the challenges with which BVA has been faced
during those 65 years, its longevity and continued ability to serve
blinded veterans become increasingly significant with each passing
Convention festivities also featured the traditional National
President’s Reception and the Father Carroll Luncheon, highlighted by
guest speaker Raymond Hazan, President of St Dunstan’s, BVA’s sister
organization in The United Kingdom. Attendees of both the BVA convention
and the VA BRS conference were treated at Wednesday morning’s Opening
Business Session to stirring addresses from Assistant Marine Commandant
General James Amos and White House Special Assistant for Disability
Affairs Kareem Dale.
Left to right, World War II veterans Paul Guzman, Ted Noddin, Jack
Shapiro, and Peter McKenna gather at Convention Awards Banquet for
ceremonial cake cutting in commemoration of BVA’s 65th anniversary.
Loyal Gene Apple of the Regional Group was this year’s recipient of
the Melvin J. Maas Award for Professional Achievement. Dennis O’Connell
of the New York Regional Group received the Irving Diener Award for
outstanding service to his regional group while Robert Keller, San Diego
Regional Group, received the David L. Schnair Award for extraordinary
The Florida Regional Group retained the Golden Gavel Award for
the fourth consecutive year. The gavel is presented to the regional
group with the greatest increase in number of members for the previous
fiscal year. The Silver Gavel Award, measured by the greatest percentage
increase in membership, went to the Cape Cod and Islands Regional
Group, one of BVA’s two most recently organized groups.
Convention delegates passed three new proposed bylaw amendments.
Two other amendments proposed by the Association’s National Board of
Directors failed to pass. The convention floor also voted to approve the
first 17 proposed resolutions as a block and then approved an
additional two, totaling 19. The National President, Vice President,
Secretary, and Treasurer will complete the second year of their two-year
terms of office by unanimous approval of a vote cast by National
Secretary Mark Cornell during the proceedings.
Sam Huhn’s election as Vice President at last year’s convention
in Portland, Oregon, left a vacancy in the directorship of District 3.
Neil Appleby, Pennsylvania Regional Group, filled the position on an
interim basis for one year. Joe Parker of Pisgah Forest, North Carolina,
was elected July 20, 2010 to fill the position for a full three-year
term of office.
The Board also re-appointed Neftali Sanchez, Southern Nevada
Regional Group, as BVA National Chaplain and asked Sandra Niccum,
Southern Nevada Regional Group, to serve as National Sergeant-at-Arms
for the upcoming fiscal year.
As part of BVA’s ongoing Operation Peer Support
initiative, the Convention hosted 12 U.S. service members who haf lost
their sight in recent combat operations in the Middle East or as a
result of health complications. They were accompanied by a spouse and/or
other family members. Nine previous Operation Peer Support convention
participants returned for a second or third year on their own, among
them British blinded service members Ben Shaw and Simon Brown.
The BVA 66th National Convention will occur at The Golden Nugget
Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tentative dates for the gathering
are set for August 16-20, 2011. Additional highlights and details of
the historic 65th Convention, as well as plans for next year, will be
recapped in the soon-to-be released Autumn 2010 BVA Bulletin. The issue
will be available on approximately November 1. In addition to its online
availability on the BVA website’s Bulletin page, the publication is
produced in audio format for BVA members only. Print version and email
copies are available upon request of Stuart Nelson, BVA Bulletin editor,