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September/october 2008

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As he turned down a narrow street in downtown Phoenix looking for a parking spot, Arizona State Council President Bill Messer had to slow down for half-a-dozen guys in dark glasses and white canes, most with women helping them cross the street. Messer, who is also a Chapter Director of Phoenix Chapter 432, had volunteered to man the nursing station—where he and other Phoenix VA Medical Center staff provided wellness care and glucose and blood pressure readings—during the Blinded Veterans of America 63rd Annual Convention, held August 12-16.

The nursing station was next to the dog run, which gave Messer the opportunity to meet many veterans. The first he spoke with was Special Forces, his face scarred from a 2002 combat injury in Afghanistan that had left him blind. The young man spoke openly of his blindness and injury. He chain-smoked but was friendly with a calm demeanor. He held his dog’s leash lightly, their communication shared wordlessly. He asked about Vietnam; Messer asked about Afghanistan. He told Messer there were eight new members from Iraq and Afghanistan attending the BVA Convention this year.

Later, walking through the BVA vendor area—so unlike VVA’s displays of patches and pins—Messer was fascinated by the many kinds of monitors displaying large print and pictures; needs-tailored cameras, web cams, and GPS systems; speaking devices for alarm clocks and wrist watches; and glasses and canes that buzzed or vibrated. The ages of the attendees ranged from their twenties to their eighties. Everyone was open and friendly. “Next time, I would like to plan for a greater VVA presence,” Messer said.



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