78 Wall St Pisgah forest NC 28768 US
Joe J. Parker, U. S. Navy, Retired, a native of Transylvania County, North Carolina, and a current resident of Pisgah Forest, North Carolina, was first invited to run for the position of Director of BVA District 3, at the Mid-Winter meeting of the BVA Board of Directors to fill a vacancy until an election could be held prior to the 2010 BVA National Convention. Joe was elected to the position on July 20, 2010 for a three-year term. At the 2013 BVA National Convention in Spokane, Washington, Joe was nominated and elected to the office of National Secretary of the BVA. After serving two years as the National Secretary, Joe was nominated and elected for the position of BVA’s National Vice-President.
Joe’s military history as a veteran began on February 9, 1959 when he began his first enlistment with the United States Naval Reserve. After serving on two ships, Joe decided not to reenlist and transferred to the US Air Force. This move cost Joe his Petty Officer promotion at a time when promotions were hard to get.
In 1966, Joe returned to the U. S. Navy and was promoted to Construction Electrician Second Class (CET2). Petty Officer Parker was immediately assigned to a Seabee Battalion with orders to Vietnam. Joe served two combat tours in Vietnam and received a field promotion to Petty Officer First Class, CE1 and other combat and personal decorations before leaving the Seabee Battalion with orders to Morocco, North Africa for two years.
While serving with the U. S. Naval Security Group (NAVSECGRU) Joe was selected for Nuclear Power training with the Naval Nuclear Power Unit at Fort Belvoir, VA. Following his two years of school with the NNPU, Joe was ordered to a four-year tour of duty at the second largest Power Plant in the U.S. Navy, at Naval Station, Rota, Spain. Joe was within three (3) months of completing his orders when his time in Vietnam caught up with him. Joe was sent via Medevac to the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, MD. After two years and two major surgeries, Joe was released to full duty with another Seabee Battalion deployed to Europe.
Following the first deployment with the battalion, Joe was assigned to “Special Projects” with the 20th Naval Construction Regiment in Gulfport, MS. This also required special training in “project Management”. When Joe’s Battalion returned to Gulfport, Joe was tasked with training a group of Officers and senior enlisted personnel in the use of computers for construction project management.
Upon completion of the training assignments, Joe returned to the Regiment to work on the special projects task force that included the construction of Naval Facilities for the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) Diego Garcia.
Reaching a near completion of his assignment, Joe reenlisted for orders to Naval Air Station Bermuda for a relaxing twilight tour, with his family, before retirement. Joe was assigned to the Safety Office and as the only American to have a seat on the Bermuda Road Safety Council. After the first year, Joe was once again awarded for his performance and was selected as the first name on the Navy wide Chief Petty Officer Promotion list.
After receiving his promotion to Chief Petty Officer (CEC), Joe was obligated for another three years. He had a choice of orders and returned to Gulfport, MS as the Safety Chief for the 20th Naval Construction Regiment. Joe was responsible for the Construction Safety Programs for five Seabee Battalions.
When he had completed his three-year obligation, Joe, with twenty-six years of active service, was formally piped ashore and transferred to the Fleet Reserve for retirement after completing 30 years of service.
Joe continued after retirement from the U. S. Navy, as a Chief Instructor with the Texas Department of Public Safety for three years followed by twelve years with the U. S. Department of Labor as a Senior Compliance Officer and Investigator. Joe voluntarily took a Disability Retirement from DOL after losing his eye sight from the development of Diabetic Retinopathy that resulted from an acute exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam.
Joe’s BVA involvement began in June of 1998 when the deterioration of his eyesight was predicted and the Diabetic Retinopathy was diagnosed. Within four months Joe was “Legally Blind.
In September, 1998 Joe received his disability rating of 220 Percent, however only 90 Percent was for his eyes. Joe was given an immediate appointment with the VIST Coordinator at the Durham VA Hospital. Due to Joe’s state of depression, the VIST Coordinator scheduled Joe for the first opening at the Augusta, GA VA Blind Rehabilitation Center for counselling and training. While at the Augusta BRC, Joe was visited by a Field Representative from BVA. After resubmitting Joe’s documentation, Joe was upgraded to 100 percent for his eyes with special category M+K.
In a state of depression, Joe traveled to the VA Blind Rehabilitation Center in Augusta, GA. After three months, with the help of professional trainers, and counselors, Joe was able to return home for Christmas with a new outlook on life. He contacted BVA and became a Life Member in May, 2000.
In summer of 2000, Joe moved from Raleigh, NC to his home town, in the Western area of the state, purchased property and completed plans for building a new home. Joe believed that by returning home he would be among familiar surroundings and with the assistance of close friends and relatives, he would have an easier existence.
Even though Joe found support from his friends, relatives and the Asheville VAMC VIST office, he missed the weekly phone calls from the North Carolina Regional Group of the Blinded Veterans Association. Through the VIST support group, Joe met other Blinded Veterans that indicated they would like to learn more about BVA and the possibility of starting a Western Chapter of the NC Regional Group of the BVA. Joe took the lead in getting the chapter started and served four terms as the Chapter President.
Joe returned to the Augusta BRC four more times for additional training. First for Computer Access Training (CAT), next to learn Braille, then to learn iPhone/iPad GPS and later to get an update on technology. Joe is living proof that training is one of the major keys to regaining one’s independence.
When the NC Regional Group Secretary/Treasurer passed away in 2009, Joe was asked to fill in until the next election. This event happened about the same time that the Director of BVA District 3 was invited to fill a vacancy on the Executive Committee of the National Board of Directors.
Joe was invited to run for the position of Director of BVA District 3 during the next scheduled election. Joe accepted the invitation and was elected to a three-year term. During this time, Joe served on ten of the eighteen BVA committees.
Joe ran for and was re-elected to a second three-year term as Director of BVA District 3, however a vacancy opened on the Executive Committee. Joe was invited to run for the office of National Secretary at the 2013 National Convention in Spokane, WA. Joe was elected to the office and an interim Director was appointed for BVA District 3. As the National Secretary, Joe served on the following committees: Executive Committee, Life Membership Fund Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee, Investment Fund Board of Trustees, Committee on Native American Veterans Affairs, BVA/BRS Committee, Membership/Dues Committee, Field Service Program Committee, Education and Training Committee, and the Building Committee.
At the 2015 National Convention, Joe was elected to the office of National Vice-President of the Blinded Veterans Association. As the VP, Joe serves on the Executive Committee and the Legislative Committee, BVA/BRS Committee, Field Service Program Committee, Education and Training Committee, Building Committee, and the Regional Group Task Force. He is also a member of the VAMC Asheville, VAVS Committee.
Joe also works with the North Carolina Services for the Blind and is a public speaker promoting BVA, and other assistive technologies that help Blinded Veterans maintain or regain their independence.
At the 2013 National Convention in Spokane, WA, Joe Parker was also awarded the coveted “Major General Melvin J. Mass Award” for achievement.
Joe is an accomplished Guide Dog user and travels, independently, with his Southeastern Guide Dog, Josie. Joe has been seen, leading a train of Blinded Veterans to local restaurants, using his GPS and his Guide Dog to find the way.
Joe continues to work with and for other veterans. While he feels a close kinship with Blinded Veterans and the Blinded Veterans Association, he also is a Life Member of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign War, Disabled American Veterans and The Fleet Reserve Association. He also represents the U.S. Navy as an active member of the Honor Guard for his county, providing Military Honors for deceased veterans. Joe continues to work with the North Carolina Regional Group of the BVA, the VIST support group and the North Carolina Services for the Blind.
Joe continually accepts public speaking assignments and never misses an opportunity to promote training and education opportunities to groups and organizations.
He has often stated that “My fear is that other veterans will suffer the catastrophic total loss of their sight as I have”. He also said. “I have dedicated myself to other veterans and to blinded veterans in particular in the hope that my blindness will not be in vain and that I can prevent others from suffering the pitfalls that I have suffered and help them retain or regain their independence.”
Joe stated that he doesn’t have time to retire. He continues to serve on the following BVA Committees: Executive Committee, Legislative Committee, BVA/BRS Committee, Field Service Program Committee, Education and Training Committee, Building Committee, and the Regional Group Task Force.
Joe lives in Pisgah Forest, NC with his wife, Maureen, of fifty-five years and his Guide Dog, Josie. Their abode is a log home, designed by joe and constructed with Joe’s supervision in 2001. He spends most of his time finding ways to help others and demonstrating that there truly is “Life After Sight”.