The military life is a natural draw for physically active people. But when active people lose some or all of their vision, especially through traumatic circumstances, the change can disrupt their sense of self—who they are and how they move in the world. They may have thought of themselves as “take charge” people. Now, they may find themselves feeling isolated, withdrawn and dependent. It can be hard for them to find connection and opportunities, or even to understand their own capabilities until they learn to adjust to their change in vision.
That’s where the Blinded Veterans Association can be a truly transformational force. BVA offers connection, camaraderie and community with people who really understand. Just ask Nate Gorham.
Nate was living in a rural area of West Virginia. He was unable to drive, and public transportation was scarce. “I realized how dependent I was becoming on my father,” Nate said. “I thought: Something’s got to change. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not making progress. I felt like I was spinning my wheels. I was becoming more and more of a homebody. I thought: This is not me! This is not my style!”
He moved to Florida, and soon got a call from then BVA Florida Regional President Terry King. “Terry said, ‘I’d like to talk to you and get you involved.’ I thought: Wow! There’s a great organization out there, and if nothing else, I can network with people who understand!” Terry encouraged him to go to the BVA Florida State Convention where he met BVA veterans Wade Davis, Danny Wallace and Lonnie Bedwell, among others.
“Lonnie invited me to come to Montana to go kayaking,” Nate said. “I’d never done it before. But I thought: Man, this is right up my alley! It was an awesome week. I suddenly felt whole again. I felt like I was supposed to feel, not like I was missing something. It was great. Since that trip, now, every time someone says, ‘Hey, do you want to do this? Do you want to climb? Do you want to run?’ I say: YES! YES! YES! This year, I even ran the Boston Marathon!”
BVA brought a sense of connection, and community into Nate’s life. He feels re-engaged and has a renewed sense of purpose. He said, “I think one of the biggest issues for veterans returning from combat and leaving a life of service is they miss the camaraderie. In the military, you form these great relationships—these strong bonds—you don’t find that anywhere else. BVA brings that back for me.”