Miller, David Van Loan, and Nick Palermo. The latter of the three was one of approximately 80 blinded service members, only four of which are known to be still living, who joined together on March 28, 1945 for the meeting that formalized the beginnings of BVA. As such, Nick is considered one of the original BVA founders.
An invitation-only ceremony/school assembly was also held the morning of Veterans Day at Avon Old Farms Boys School, site of the hospital that housed and rehabilitated, from 1944 to 1947, 800 men blinded during World War II. The keynote speaker was David VanLoan.
The assembly was attended by the entire student body, faculty, former Old Farms Convalescent Hospital employees and volunteers, state and federal legislators, officials from Avon public schools, and veterans from VFW Post 3272.
The two recent events in Avon became a community effort. Old photographs were located and scanned from personal collections, magazines, and newspaper archives. Interviews were also conducted with residents who worked or volunteered at the hospital. In addition, students at Avon High School produced a video presentation made up of interviews with blinded veterans who had been a part of the hospital’s programs and embraced by the Avon community.
The DVD was shown at the November 11 event at the boys’ school.
“These were inspirational events that I feel lucky to have been a part of,” said David. “Being right there where it all began for BVA, the commemoration events drove home to me the historic importance and almost miraculous nature of the organization’s beginnings—and the incredible foresight of our founders to institutionalize an idea that would help so many thousands of us far into the future.”
The two commemorative events at Avon were also referred to in a statement for inclusion in the Congressional Record by Representative Christopher Murphy (D-CT-5) on the House Floor on November 10. The statement further referred to the generosity of Mrs. Theodate Pope Riddle, founder of the boys’ school who graciously and patriotically closed it in 1944 for use by the Army for $1 per year. Representative Murphy also mentioned the founding of BVA at Avon Old Farms Convalescent Hospital.
Now in High Gear
BVA members and their families planning to attend the organization’s historic 65th National Convention in Washington, DC, are encouraged to begin preparing for the event now. The convention will be held on the outskirts of the Nation’s Capital at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia. The hotel stands adjacent to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Dates are August 24-28, 2010. Room rates are $149 per night for single and double occupancy, $169 for triple, and $189 for a group of four.
“We are very excited about co-hosting the convention next year in the magnificent venue city that we are fortunate to call home,” said Mid-Atlantic Regional Group President George Hicks. “We will be a stone’s throw from Arlington National Cemetery, the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial, and we envision trips to each of those sites.”
George also mentioned the famed Purple Heart Path leading from George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon to downtown Washington. He referred to the convention’s proximity to VA Central Office as well.
The Crystal Gateway Marriott is located in the Crystal City commercial and residential development of Arlington County. The area features more than 200 restaurants, stores, and hotels. Convention attendees may board the Metrorail system with the District of Columbia as their