Blind veterans get a flag they can see with their hands

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -- Even if they can't see it, they know it's there and it's there for them.

Here's how blind veterans in Lake City are being honored with their own type of flag that they can see, with their fingers.

It may not be very big, but for the visually impaired veterans in Lake City, it's powerful. A plaque with the stars and stripes raised up so you can feel it with your fingers and the pledge of allegiance written in braille now adorns the VA hospitals walls.

The sight of the flag over Iwo Jima boosted the spirits of marines fighting there.
But there are now many veterans who can't see at all.
Humberto Rodriguez is a U.S. Army veteran who is totally blind who he said "it is important from the standpoint of being blind and the place like we are now in the VA hospital in Lake City. It's very important to know that you're remembered because we're a very small percentage of the population the blind percentage is less than 2 percent."

There are nearly one thousand legally blind veterans in North Florida and four times that many categorized as visually impaired.
Judy McMillan works as a case manager to blind veterans through the VA, she said "to not be able to see the flag is kind of sad. To be able to touch this and remember all the things that this means to you, this way he can touch that and it's going to bring back all those memories of colors."
James Hodges served in the naval reserved and is classified as visually impaired, he said: " you're never far away from it and it's never far from you. So to be included and know there's a flag there for vision impairment even though we can't see the flag, we still can."

Many veterans didn't lose their eyesight until after they served but they can remember how important the image of the flag was to them while they were enlisted.

Rodriguez gave an example from his memories of the comfort the American Flag can bring. "The flag meant a lot when you're out in the field and you're trying to go behind German lines and now you're behind German lines trying to get back to your own lines. Once you see that flag, that's a big emotion getting back to your own flag, your own people your own place."
A place, like the VA.

Braille flags like these are popping up in many VA hospitals in Florida because of a legally blind veteran from Georgia named Walt Peters is using them to show appreciation for all blind veterans. His goal is to one day have flags like these in every single United States VA hospital.