Ep 12: A Veteran’s Journey Through Darkness: John Byrd’s Battle With Addiction & Vision Loss

On episode twelve of Untold Valor, we sit down with John Byrd, a legally blind veteran who overcame a drug addiction and now dedicates his time to helping others.

Listen as John shares his emotional rollercoaster of experiences, from the moment he realized he needed help to how he rebuilt his life, one step at a time. You’ll also learn about John’s experience with addiction and how he found the strength to ask for help and join a drug program, the importance of the 12-step program in John’s journey to recovery and staying clean, and the support and resources available for blind veterans. Don’t miss today’s story about the power of resilience and the difference that seeking help can make in a veteran’s life.

Highlights of this episode:

  • 6:00 – How a car accident derailed John’s plans to play in the NBA and impacted his military career.
  • 7:30 – It wasn’t until the age of 35 that John turned to coping mechanisms like smoking, drinking and drugs. And it didn’t stem directly from military service.
  • 11:25 – How John discovered he had glaucoma and his journey toward becoming legally blind.
  • 13:30 – John’s connection with the Blinded Veterans Association and what resources are out there for veterans struggling with sight.

More About John Byrd:

US Army 1963 to 1966. John started as a Petroleum Supply Specialist and then led the Army Recreation for Youth of America in Germany.  Returning and retired from the service, Mr. Byrd tried out for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1967. He was scheduled to return to service that year, but was in a serious car accident and injured his knee. He played basketball from 1969 until 1973 while he was also coaching a girls’ softball team, champs of the Delaware County league.

Mr. Byrd’s wife, Jackie, noticed his eyesight troubles in 1993. After being diagnosed with glaucoma, his eyesight continued to deteriorate until he was officially diagnosed legally blind in 2006. Mr. Byrd is a proud member of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Blinded Veterans Association.  He is also a “full member” of the National Blinded Veterans Association.  Mr. Byrd served as the Sergeant of Arms for the PBVA (2010-2012).

Mr. Byrd serves at the Philadelphia Baptist Church food cupboard in West Philadelphia with Reverend Ben Nelson and works in Southwest Philadelphia distributing food in front of the Kingsessing Library. He loves and enjoys his lovely wife, Jackie, their four children (three daughters & a son), eleven grandkids, and three great-grandchildren.

Blinded Veterans Association: https://bva.org or call 800-669-7079.

The National Association of Blind Veterans: “Blind Vets Serving Blind Vets”  https://nabv.org or call 706-329-7960.

VA Philadelphia Health Care: https://bit.ly/3UfIY1O or call 215-823-5800.


Veterans Crisis Line: Dial 988 then Press 1   Chat at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat   or Chat by Text 838255

Voice & Vision: https://bit.ly/3miwFoy

CompeerCORPS: https://bit.ly/3GgKryU

Information on how to apply for VA Healthcare Benefits from anywhere in the USA: https://bit.ly/40PtrrN or call 877-222-8387 (M-F 8am-8pm EST)

To apply for veteran’s benefits and find resources in Pennsylvania veterans need to contact their County Office of Veterans Affairs as listed in this document: https://bit.ly/3m8PBWS

View more about PA’s resources for veterans: https://bit.ly/416cf0Q

Financial support for Untold Valor is provided by a Veterans’ Trust Fund grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

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