VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
FRG NEWSLETTER, October, 2007
FRG President's Message: The BVA National Convention is now in the past. Once again, I enjoyed meeting some very interesting members of our BVA family, their spouses and companions. A couple of them, I found out, had even recently written and published books. George Brummell, former BVA Field Service Director, is the author of "Shades Of Darkness", a superb autobiography. You can review the book at: HTTP: www.georgebrummell.com Another recent book, "The Coin", a coin touched by the hand of Jesus, and how it helped inspire others by Walter Osborn, a retired chaplain, who while blind and in his nineties, received his computer from the VA and sat down transforming his inter knowledge and thoughts to written text. If you'd like to get a copy of Walter's book, you can review it at HTTP: www.thecoinbook.com. Also, there at the convention, was Bob Woodruff, who was co-anchor of ABC World News Tonight, prior to his and his camera crew's almost fatal meeting with an improvised explosive device (IED) while in Iraq. He has recovered well, but still suffers from the traumatic brain injury he received in the blast. He, too, is a recent author of "In An Instant". My wife had brought her copy of his book and he graciously signed it for her. As the convention Guest Speaker, he expressed the entire nation's concern over the health care for our returning members of the Armed Forces. The next issue of the BVA Bulletin will give the details of the Convention, as will the BVA web site HTTP: www.bva.org.
The FRG Informational Luncheon in Orlando in September was a huge success. My hat is off to Kirk Harmon, one of our BV's from Orlando, for helping us in getting the luncheon set up. We had 104 reservations but only 91 showed up. I need to remind all that we end up paying for the "no shows" out of the FRG treasury. With the 13 no shows, $195 was lost. So if for some reason it becomes impossible to make it, try to let us know that you have to cancel.
Our TEE Tournament, yes sir, I went again this year along with several other members of our FRG. Again, I had a terrific time. My wife went also and she had an equally great time. I ended with a tie for the lowest score in golf, also had high score in my groups bowling, and successfully defended my first place in horse shoes from last year. I thought I'd let you hear testimony from the others who attended. Bill Burgess from Palm Coast, "This was my second trip to the ( Training, Exposure, Experience) Tournament in Iowa. This was more enjoyable than my first time. It is always a friendly crowd, from the volunteers to the vets who participated. I used a bowling ball with a handle that is spring loaded and retracts when you let the ball go down the lane. The ball is designed for those who have neuropathy or arthritis in their hands. It sure worked for me. My wife, Mickey and me, are looking forward to next year". Rick Calissi from Ocala "This was my fifth year as a participant at the TEE Tournament and I can say that it gets better each year. I feel that the FRG should step up and make a nice donation in promoting this great event. There was a great representation from the FRG and it was nice to see". Bill Geden from Hernando. "This was my sixth year, weather was perfect, fun was plentiful and my wife and I will surely return next year". Ron Mackey from Jacksonville. "This was my first time at the TEE Tournament, and definitely not the last. Golf, bowling, horse shoes, picnic, casino night, great food, and wonderful people, even if I came and didn't golf, bowl, or throw horse shoes, it was still a great time. If I could go back tomorrow, that would be great!" George Schudel from Ft. Myers. "The TEE Tournament was wonderful. I met a lot of BVA members and was exhausted each day as there was much to do. All of the hosts were super. They made us feel special. I was lucky to have the oldest caddy, who was a survivor of Stalag 17, having one year and 29 days as a POW. Just meeting Howard Huff made the whole trip worth while. Since Paul stole all of the glory, it wasn't necessary for me to show off my golfing skills. I will do better next year". Bob Dillinger from Ft. Myers. "I had a good time, although I would like to have played more golf. You don't need to be a golfer, just take your wife and have some fun" In closing this message, as always, keep the mission alive, and help one another to help each other. Paul W. Kaminsky, FRG President. (904) 291-0576 .
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: Dear FRG Auxiliary Members, BVA Comrades, and Friends: Now that our summer vacations and the BVA National Convention has passed into fond memories, the fall is upon us and time to get together at the luncheons, to support the BVA and do what we can to keep our organization strong. The BVA Auxiliary is only as strong as its membership and that means that we need all of you. If you have not joined our BVA Auxiliary this year, please consider doing so. Sometimes it might seem as though we don't need to join one more thing. If you are considering ways to help the Blinded Veterans from the conflicts from the past and our current state of war, our support is needed. Your support for our Scholarship Program and any other help for the families of our veterans as well as the veterans themselves. If you have not joined the Auxiliary family, please consider doing so. You may get your membership application from our membership Chairman Joanne King email email@example.com or call her at (941) 505-7747. She will gladly email or send you an application. Joyce Thornton FRG Auxiliary President.
FRG Meeting Notice: The Southwest Florida BV's have really outdone themselves this year. Arrangements have been made for our Annual Southwest District Informational Meeting to be held on Saturday, November 3 at the prestigious Porto Bello Restaurant located in the Burnstore Marina Complex, 3200 Matecumbe Key Road in Punta Gorda. The meeting was arranged by Southwest District Director John Thomas and Vice President Terry King. In lieu of a scheduled speaker, this year, we have learned that we have a celebrity within our midst. Bob Creech, one of our Blinded Veterans who had played in many of the 1970's famous bands, has agreed to entertain us at our meeting. The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon. The menu is: Mixed Green Salad with Balsamic Dressing, Sliced Choice Roast Beef, Mashed Potatoes, Vegetables, Dessert, and Ice Tea, Coffee, and soda. There will be a cash bar for those desiring alcoholic drinks. The cost per person is only $5. If you make a reservation and are unable to come, please call and cancel your reservation. In that way, the FRG shall not be charged for unused meals.
FRG President Paul Kaminsky will preside at the informational meeting following lunch. Representatives from the VA will be on hand to provide information about services and benefits of interest to Blinded Veterans and their families. A National Legislative Up-Date will be presented. The FRG programs and activities for the coming months will be discussed. FRG Auxiliary activities will be reviewed.
The restaurant requires a guaranteed count by October 31. Please call one of the following prior to that date to make your reservation: St. James City - John Thomas at (239) 283-1708; Ft. Myers - Joyce Thornton at (239) 939-3939 ex 6284; Larry Newman at (239) 277-0821; Bob Creech at (239) 332-0117;
In Ft. Myers Beach - Leo Bonony at (239) 454-5785 Venice- Frank Drab at (941) 497-7044; Punta Gorda - Terry King at (941) 505-7747; Bill Stockslager at (941) 743-8364; Leonard Hieber - (941) 639-5431; Cape Coral - Bing Wack at (239) 547-8592; Naples - Jim Wu at (239) 649-5077; Port Charlotte - Bill Kitt - (941) 627-1664;
The directions to the Porto Bello Restaurant: Go north or south on I 75 to exit 161. Go west on Burnstore Road (State Road 765) 11.5 miles from I 75. Turn right into Burnstore Marina. Go north or south on US 41 to Burnstore Road . Then go west 11 miles to the Burnstore Marina on your right. If you are coming from Pine Island Road, turn right on Burnstore Road for 5 miles, then turn left into the Burnstore Marina. From Ft. Myers, go to Colonial and take the midpoint Bridge which becomes Veterans Highway, all the way to Pine Island and Burnstore Road. Where the Veterans Highway merges with Burnstore Road and continue on Burnstore Road to Burnstore Marina and turn left into the Marina. When you get to the Burnstore Marina, there will be a guard at the gate. The guard will give you directions to the Porto Bello Restaurant for the BVA-FRG luncheon meeting.
National Legislative Up-Date: Since our military has been fighting terrorism after 9-11, the BVA has been concerned about the reporting of military personnel who have suffered eye injuries and those who have developed visual limitation as a result of Traumatic Brain Injury. The best information we could obtain reveals that there have been about 2300 individuals who have received those injuries since the conflict began. This is about 13% of all injuries. However, there has been no consistency in the reporting of these injuries and there has been no registry of all individuals with vision injuries. Further, the transfer of this information to the VA has not occurred. As a result, the BVA has taken a lead with Congress, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the VA to establish a Military Eye Trauma Center of Excellence within the DOD. Such a Center could keep a registry of all vision injuries and coordinate the treatment and research among the various service medical facilities and report this information to the DOD which could share it with the VA. This lack of a registry of all individuals who have suffered such injuries through OIF (Iraq) or OEF (Afghanistan) could result in milittary personnel falling through the cracks. The BVA effort has resulted in the introduction of two measures before Congress. On August 3, Senators John Carey (D, MA), Chuck Hagel (R, NE) , Barack Obama (D, IL) , and Pete Domenici, (R, NM) sponsored S 1999 which includes the establishment of a Military Eye Trauma Center Of Excelence and registry within the DOD specifically devoted to the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, and rehabilitation of military personnel with eye injuries. This measure would insure the tracking of such injuries, the treatment provided, and the need for further treatment. This important legislation would assist in the seamless transition of eye injured personnel from the DOD care to that of the VA. On September 18, HR 3558 The Eye Injury Registry was introduced into the House of Representatives by Representatives Boozman, John Hall, Heather Wilson R, NM), and Shelley Berkley (D, NV). The Eye Injury Registry established by the legislation would contain up-to-date information on each serious eye injury received by any member of the Armed Forces, while serving on active duty. It would include input from Optometrists and ophthalmologist and authorize electronic exchange ofdiagnostic information and eye surgical procedures between the two Departments. Senator Bill Nelson from Florida is on the Veterans Affairs Committee. We urge all BV's in Florida to call Senator Nelson's District Offices and urge him to actively support S 1999. You may get the telephone number of his District Office near your home by calling telephone information. You could also write him at: The Honorable Bill Nelson, Member of the US Senate, Washington, D.C. 20515. The BVA is working to get S 1999 added to other legislation being considered by the Armed Services Committee in October. Passage of S 1999 and HR 3558 would greatly improve the treatment for our Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans with visual disabilities. Take a few minutes and call Senator Nelson and urge him to support S1999.
VIST Coordinator's Concerns: You have all heard about the birth of the BVA in 1945 at Avon Old Farms Army Convalescence Hospital in Connecticut when 100 determined Blinded Veterans decided to take their destiny into their own hands and form the BVA. We hear it but are we listening? The BVA is only as powerful and as strong as its membership chooses to be. As the only Congressionally Chartered organization specifically authorized to represent Blinded Veterans before all branches of Government, the BVA has been responsible for almost every service and benefit specifically provided to Blinded Veterans over the past 62 years. Those veterans benefits have come a long way through the years, but we have to remember if we do not remain strong and united in our purpose in trying to improve benefits and equipment for Blinded Veterans, that what the BVA has achieved can be taken away quite easily and swiftly if the veterans who are new to the organization become complacent and do not remain united and strong. Some consumer agencies would like to play a part in the BVA because they are interested in the VA funding for services and benefits. Even though Blinded Veterans are free to join any consumer organization they wish, they must remember that BVA has to remain strong and united with the purpose of taking care of Blinded Veterans first. They cannot afford to let themselves be caught up in issues and causes that might decrease their power. BVA is a small organization compared to other consumer groups and the BVA must not mix up the causes of these groups or allow them to interfere with the BVA goals which are to protect the rehab services, the issuance of equipment, and to constantly keep watch so the Blinded Veterans benefits are not compromised. Technology for the Blinded Veteran is constantly being improved and upgraded. It is the responsibility of the BVA to continue to work for better technology and up-to-date equipment that will increase the quality of life and independence of Blinded Veterans. The VIST Program can only exist if the BVA continues to support it and demand that VIST services are made available. The BVA must watch closely so that VIST Coordinators are replaced quickly when a vacancy comes up. The VA is a large bureaucracy serving a large population of veterans. The Blinded Veteran is a very small part of that population and services for BV's could easily fall through the cracks without a strong cohesive BVA. BV's need to unite and support the BVA so that the services and benefits BV's need and deserve continue to be available in the quantity and quality necessary to insure their independence and quality of life. Joyce Thornton, Ft. Myers VIST Coordinator.
FRG Meeting Schedule
November 3 FRG meeting Porto Bello Restaurant in Punta Gorda
December 1 FRG meeting Bill Irle's Restaurant in Clearwater
January 5 FRG meeting Quality Inn in Ocala
February 2 FRG meeting MacDill AFB in Tampa