• P.O. Box 65900 Washington, D.C. 20035-5900
  • 202-257-5446
  • P.O. Box 65900 Washington, D.C. 20035-5900
  • 202-257-5446

The Blinded American Veterans Foundation assists blinded and sensory-disabled veterans in attaining their full potential through research, rehabilitation, and re-employment.  It offers employment networking and rehabilitation and resource counseling, and provides funding for rehabilitation centers.  Other programs include a speaker's bureau, placement services, and a compilation of related statistics.  It also conducts research, educational, and charitable programs.  This valuable service is performed strictly with volunteers and no paid staff.

The Blinded American Veterans Foundation was launched in 1985 by three American veterans who lost their sight during service in Korea and Vietnam -- John Fales(USMC), Don Garner(USN) and Dennis Wyant (USN).

All had achieved successful careers despite their blindness. But the realization among them that many sensory disabled veterans had not had the opportunities afforded them led to their determination to form the Foundation and pursue its three main goals: Research, Rehabilitation and Re-employment.

From the beginning, it was determined that BAVF would not be a membership organization or a substitute for already established veterans service organizations. Instead, the Foundation was designed to become a nationwide focal point and clearinghouse for research, information dissemination and educational efforts. As a result, BAVF concentrates on:

  • Supporting medical research on sensory disabilities, as well as the development of improved sensory prosthetics.
  • Outreach programs to further identify issues of personal importance to veterans with sensory disabilities.
  • Informational programs directed at state and federal government agencies, the Congress and state legislatures, the private business sector and the general public.
  • The development of a nationwide volunteer corps to assist veterans with sensory disabilities.

Since its founding in 1985, BAVF has made major strides toward achieving its goals of advanced research, improved rehabilitation programs and wider re-employment opportunities. A few examples:

  • The Americane, which was developed through R & D grants from BAVF, has been certified by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a sensory aid and-with the assistance of the Disabled American Veterans' Blind National Chapter-has given more than 2,500 blinded vets greater mobility and independence.
  • Thousands of blinded vets have received an audio version of the Veterans Benefit Handbook and many of them for the first time now have full awareness of the range of benefits available to them. Copies of the audio disks have also been donated to the Library of Congress and many other public libraries across the nation.
  • Direct financial grants to VAMC's and Blind Rehabilitation Centers and Clinics have assisted in covering budget shortfalls, improved vital computer training capabilities and assisting visual impairment coordinators--as well as establishing educational trust funds for training VIC's.

Additionally, for the first time since the inception of the Blind Rehabilitation Program at the end of WWII, BAVF funded a nationwide comprehensive survey and analysis of how the program is faring-its strengths, its weaknesses and how it may be improved. In 2000, the BAVF also conducted a nationwide follow-up study to determine what progress, if any,-has been made and to press for further improvement.

These are but a few of the Foundation's achievements, and even fewer of its hopes for the future. But most importantly, BAVF's accomplishments--as was the intent of its founders-have been realized through the selfless efforts of hundreds of volunteers.

At the main entrance of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington, D.C., there are inscribed the words of Abraham Lincoln, taken from his Gettysburg address:

"To provide for them who have borne the battle, their widows, and their orphans."

No other words could more eloquently express the aims of the Blinded American Veterans Foundation. There are not words adequate enough to express BAVF's gratitude to the many friends who have helped us along our way.

GuideStar link regarding BAVF.

Meet our Board

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John Fales

President

John Fales, a proud marine at birth, began life in New York, in 1940. He was always a bit of a hell raiser. Having been kicked out of catholic high school prior to his graduation John decided to officially join the U.S. Marine Corps. During basic training in Paris Island, he graduated with his G.E.D. before his class mates finished high school in New York. Fales served in the corps in Beirut and Vietnam until his retirement on disability in 1966. His decorations include Purple Heart, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Service Medal, New York State Conspicuous Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Action Ribbon, and South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Following his retirement, John earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Saint John’s University, New York and Master of Science Degree in Education from Hofstra University, New York. Among the numerous awards John has received are: the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service from The Freedom’s Foundation; Outstanding Handicapped Federal Employee; Blinded Veterans Association’s “Irving Diener Award”; United States President’s Community Service Commendation; Chairman’s Commendation from The President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped; honored by the Vietnam Veterans Civics Counsels as one (1) of Washington D.C.’s Outstanding Vietnam Veterans. John has been honored by the Gold Star Mothers, Inc. and the Gold Star Wives, Inc.; the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program’s (VVLP) President’s Award; The Military Order of The Purple Heart; The American Legion National Commander’s Public Relation Award; The Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation’s Bronze Medallion of The Legion of Honor. The U.S. Marine Corps also honored one of their own: John was guest of honor at a sunset parade at the Iwo Jima memorial in June 2005. John and two fellow blinded veterans started the Blinded American Veterans Foundation (BAVF) in 1985. John has been the President since its inception. Although Fales and the cofounders achieved success in their careers despite blindness, they realized that many veterans with sensory disabilities did not have, or did not take, the opportunities afforded to them. This led to the creation of the foundation and its three main goals: research, rehabilitation and reemployment. From its inception, the founders determined that the BAVF would not be a substitute for any veterans membership organization. Instead, the BAVF became a focal point and a clearinghouse for research, information dissemination, and educational efforts. “Sgt. Shaft,” John’s pen name, was created in 1982 when he authored his nationally read column, “Sgt. Shaft.” This moniker combines the name of its creator (a former marine), with his old military title (Scout Sergeant) and the military expression when wronged, “Shafted”. The column closely mirrors Sarge’s wry sense of humor, empathy for the underdog, and his strong love of family, love of country and fellow veterans. The weekly column commenced in the “Stars & Stripes” from 1982 – 1985. It lay dormant until it was reborn in “The Washington Times” in 1991. It is now also featured on this web site, on the archives of military.com and is available on a millions of computer screens. John Fales is a lifetime member of AMVETS, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the American Legion. He is also a member of the Veterans of Foreign wars (VFW) Marine Corps League, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the National Press Club. John has had the honor of addressing a congressional subcommittee regarding technology, specifically as it relates to the sensory disabled. Here is the full text of his statement John joined the ranks of federal retirees in 2006.
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Michael Jernigan

Vice President

Michael Jernigan is a Marine who proudly served with Company E 2nd Battalion 2nd Marine regiment.  On August 22, 2004 while on a deployment in Iraq, Michael’s platoon was on patrol when it was hit by two 155mm artillery shells buried under the ground.  The Improvised Explosive Device threw him 20 meters from the Humvee.  Michael suffered life threatening and life changing injuries that day.  45% of his cranium was crushed in.  He had shrapnel enter in his right eye and exit through his left eye, cutting everything in between.  He had to have two fingers reattached and his right hand fully reconstructed.  He fractured his patella and cut his femoral artery.  Michael went through 30 major surgeries in the first 12 months and spent 16 months in hospitals and rehab facilities. Since the attack Michael has taken his second chance at life and turned it into something that is never taken for granted.  He volunteers his time whenever it is needed and always offers a helping hand.  Since being wounded he has graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Florida, was featured in the HBO documentary Alive Day, has been a contributing writer to the NYTimes.com Home Fires blog and was recognized as Learning Ally’s 2012 National Achievement Award winner.  For his dedication and continual community service Michael was awarded the ‘Veteran of the Year Award’ from his hometown of St. Petersburg Florida.  In 2006 Michael Co founded Paws for Patriots at South Eastern Guide Dogs; which provides guide dogs and service animals to veterans.  He has touched thousands of lives through his motivational speaking, peer to peer counseling and now his work with the Blinded American Veterans Foundation and the Corporal’s Corner blog.  Michael’s continued service to others has not gone unnoticed and on November 9, 2017 Michael was awarded ‘The Ross Perot Patriot award’.  He has turned the most traumatic experience of his life into a life filled with a new purpose; to help others gain their vision.  Michael’s favorite saying is, “It wasn’t until I lost my sight, that I gained my vision”.  Too often people solely rely on their eyes to see, but miss out on life’s most precious moments, the ones you can’t see, but only feel.  Michael truly embodies what it means to be a Marine, “honor, courage, commitment”.
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Don Garner

Secretary

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Dennis Wyant

Treasurer

Dennis, one of the four founding members in 1985, is the National Secretary of the BAVF. Professionally, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Veterans Employment under President Carter and Director of the GI Bill of Education and the V A’s Vocational Rehabilitation program worldwide. After retiring as the V A Regional Director in Indianapolis IN, Dennis and his wife, Jane Feldman, moved to Florida. Currently they are Guardians ad Litem, Therapy Dog partners with labradoodles Mulligan and Lilly, and Tai chi students.