Sandwiched between the opening national anthem and "America the Beautiful," residents listened attentively as a handful of leaders, namely Rep. Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Highland Park), shared their thoughts on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
But one speaker, Steve Beres, was unique in his perspective. As a blinded veteran, he came to Winnetka on Friday to talk about life as a blinded veteran and to share his support for a new program at the Hadley School for the Blind.
The Blinded Veterans Initiative plans to teach blind or visually impaired veterans specific classes tailored to their needs, from entrepreneurship to braille literacy. "Veterans Benefits" is one such module, which clarifies the veteran benefits and healthcare system.
"Hadley provides lifelong learning opportunities that reinforce and extend the skills veterans learn in the rehabilitation process," said Beres, a Hadley alumnus and director of Blinded Veterans Association. "Hadley is especially strong in providing accessible resources to help you get back into the workplace."
The new program is free for all visually impaired veterans, due to a five-year, $20 million contribution from Goldman Sachs Gives. John Willian, a Winnetka native and managing director at Goldman Sachs, recommended Hadley for funding.
"We are very proud and honored to support those veterans who have served our country and their families," said Hadley President Chuck Young. "This new initiative will enable blinded veterans to regain the confidence and independence they need when they come home from the front lines."
Phil Hoza, a Winnetka resident and business owner, earned a Purple Heart award after he injured his leg while serving as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He returned home a captain, and decades later, watched his daughter, Captain Carrie Hoza, moderate Friday's event.
"I reflect back on my military service. I raised a family and five delightful children. I was able to go skiing, go to Disney World, all the good things in life," he said. "As a surving veteran, it's important for the veterans who serve to remember those who couldn't be there."