Skip Navigation

Local nonprofit offered a chance to serve my country, even after I lost my sight

Bosma Enterprises - 5/21/2018 1:19:43 PM

Ray Montgomery shares his story of being able to serve his country, even after he lost his sight.

By Ray Montgomery, senior marketing activities associate, Bosma Enterprises

Army fatigues, tents, packaged foods and helmets nearly filled the basement of my childhood home in Merriville, Ind. As a child with a creative imagination, finding military equipment and gear around the home led to hours of fun. At that age, I was unaware of the sacrifices people in the military made for their families and country. All I knew was people in the military fought to protect the country and if a war were to break out, my father would probably have to fight.

Although my father told me about his experiences in Vietnam and Bosnia, the thought of war did not truly affect me until he was called to fight in Desert Storm. I was in the sixth grade, and had little knowledge of the conflict occurring in Iraq. I can remember him being deployed and wondering if he would return. I remember the 24 hour news coverage of the war and seeing it play out on television.

My brother also served in the Army, completing six tours in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2004-2017. Having both by father and brother in the Army gave me a sense of pride to know they were giving back to their country, and I wanted to find a way to serve my country, as well.

Unfortunately, I was unable to follow in their footsteps and join the military. In 1997, I lost my sight in a robbery/shooting while stopped in a car at a railroad crossing. In an instant, my life was changed and I was left with so many questions. Would I be able to live independently in my own apartment? How would I earn a living?

Nationally, people who are blind or visually impaired face a 70 percent unemployment rate, a reality I learned the hard way while struggling to find work after losing my vision. Though rehabilitation helped me learn to do things like walk with a cane, read Braille and use a computer so that I could live independently, it was difficult to find a job. I soon found myself depressed. My friends could play basketball and video games, and I was left out. I needed purpose and direction.

After moving to Indianapolis, it didn’t take long to find that direction through the help of Bosma Enterprises. Although I had never heard of Bosma Enterprises, my Vocational Rehabilitation counselor informed me that the organization not only provides rehabilitation services similar to those I received in my hometown, but is the state’s largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired.

I applied and was offered a job working on Bosma Enterprises glove packaging line. Through a contract with the federal AbilityOne program, Bosma Enterprises packages more than 2,200 cases of gloves per day, and last year shipped more than 480 million exam gloves to VA hospitals throughout the country. Not only was I able to earn a good living, I finally found a way to serve my country and provide for veterans nationwide who have made tremendous sacrifices for our freedom.

The AbilityOne Program is among the largest sources of employment for individuals who are blind or have significant disabilities in the United States. Through a network of 550 nonprofit agencies around the country like Bosma Enterprises, AbilityOne creates jobs for more than 45,000 people nationwide who are blind or have significant disabilities, including 3,000 veterans and wounded warriors. It has certainly made a difference in my life, and given me hope and an opportunity to provide for my family and give back to my country.

Thanks to Bosma Enterprises and AbilityOne, I found my purpose. This Armed Forces Day, take a moment to consider how you can give back. Though volunteering, donating or simply telling someone who could benefit about these types of programs, it will help support the important work made possible by organizations like Bosma Enterprises. For me, it was a life saver.