Approximately 40 U.S. Army South noncommissioned officers visited the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind (SALB) here June 23 to get a firsthand look at what goes into making many of the products they use regularly.
“When Soldiers pick up one of our items they probably don’t realize it was made by a blind or visually impaired individual,” said Nancy Lipton, the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind spokesperson. “We make a wide assortment of military apparel items, military helmet systems, mechanical pencils, pens and other office supplies.”
The SALB is a nonprofit organization that provides employment and rehabilitation services for people who are blind or visually impaired.
“In a lot of cases the Lighthouse gave them their independence and dignity,” said Lipton. “We know that 10 percent unemployment in the general population is bad, but in the blind community there’s a national unemployment rate of 70 percent. It’s astronomical.”
More than half of the 500 SALB employees are blind, according to Lipton. They take much pride in their products, especially those made for use by U.S. service members.
“The employees are very proud of what they do,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Luis Gonzalez, U.S. Army South Special Troops Battalion command sergeant major. “They were excited to visit with Soldiers today and learn firsthand the results of their products. They have a real sense of pride in what they do here.”
SALB employee George White said he gets much satisfaction in making products for the U.S. military and was excited to show the Army South Soldiers what he does on a daily basis.
“Our service members are heroes and I keep that in mind while working on these products,” said White. “It was a lot of fun visiting with them today and answering their questions about my job.”
The visit was inspiring to many of the Army South Soldiers.
“I got so much out of it,” said Sgt. Harlowe Allen with the Army South personnel office. “They’re heroes to us and I had to tell them how much I appreciate them making equipment that is reliable and dependable. It put things in perspective for me and it’s definitely an inspiration to see them.”