Person of the Week
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Joe Parker

Updated: Friday, September 13 2013, 05:02 PM EDT
The Veterans Administration estimates there are more 158,000 severely vision impaired or blind veterans in the U.S.

Our Person of the Week is one of them.

Next week he's receiving a national award for making a difference in the lives of other blind veterans.

His message of courage is really for anyone facing life's challenges

The man who designed this home back in the 90's, had a vision, "I have a pretty good picture in my mind, yeah."

It would have to be, because by 1998, he was legally blind.

Joe Parker, Person of the Week, "it was the beginning of my accomplishments, after I got out of blind rehab I came back and built this house."

Joe Parker was injured in Vietnam while serving in the Navy as a Seabee, a construction chief.  An explosion involving agent orange slowly affected his health and took his his eyesight.  He has a little vision in the corner his right eye and can see shadows.

"I went into a deep depression once this think really hit and had to give up driving and I used to be an avid motorcyclist."

What he did not give up is his determination to find a way to do things independently whenever possible.  That's why, for Joe, this home is where his story begins.

"I believe that blind people give up a lot of their independence because they don't know they can continue doing things.   It's very hard to imagine that I can drive a nail just like anyone else can."

Through a sense of touch, concentration and practice he's found there's a lot of things he can do, and he's been encouraging other blinded Veterans towards greater independence too.

"It's a lot easier if you're talking to someone who has walked in your shoes.  Someone who knows what the sudden loss of visual skills are."

Through the Blinded Veterans Association, he found a rehab center to learn new skills and because of his efforts to help others, "it's all about blinded vets helping blinded vets"

Later this month Joe Parker is receiving a national award.

Larry, "they're recognizing you and i was reading about it.  It says enhancement of a positive image of blind persons and to the elimination of the concept of helplessness.  That's you, isn't it?  Joe:  They claim it is.  I'm accepting their definition of it."

While accepting help when he needs it, he  has refused to allow the condition or expectations of others limit his abilities, "don't sit around and let other people define you."

It's been a long journey  but this former Navy Chief Petty Officer will never stop trying to show other blinded veterans that they have more to offer than they think.

"Because they don't know they can do it."

And if anyone can show them, maybe Joe can.  "It's a wonderful feeling.  Makes you want to go out and do it again.  And I do!"Joe Parker

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