Help veterans like Gary march at the Cenotaph this Remembrance Sunday

Local veteran Gary is getting set to march at the Cenotaph in London with more than 100 other of his blind veteran comrades.

50-year-old Gary from Derby is being supported to do this by his local Specsavers stores. The stores are raising money from 6 – 12 November to send blind veterans, including Gary, to march.

In 1989, Gary joined the Royal Corps of Transport as a stevedore and he was involved in the loading of ships at military ports. Gary served in Norway and in Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War. Due to damage he had suffered in his knees, Gary was medically discharged as a Private in 1991.

It was years later, in 2009, that Gary lost his sight. After several months’ of feeling unwell, Gary was advised by his GP that he had mumps. Soon after this, despite feeling on the mend, Gary had a stroke in the middle of the night.

He says: “When I woke up that morning, I couldn’t see a thing. From that moment on, I was blind.”  Gary was rushed to hospital where he was told that he did not in fact have mumps. Instead he discovered that he had meningitis, an illness which ultimately robbed Gary of his vision.

"I marched last year with Blind Veterans UK and it was a totally surreal experience. It completely took me off guard and was the kind of the thing that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. When you come round the back of the Horse Guards Parade and the general public are clapping, it’s really quite something."

Specsavers stores are helping get our blind veterans to the march

Specsavers has supported Blind Veterans UK since 2012 and, as well as raising money for our charity, has referred a number of customers so they too can access our support. 

This support is crucial.

Gary has been on a week long introduction week as well as had IT training sessions from Blind Veterans UK. He has also received specialist free equipment to help him with his sight loss. Gary has even taken part in the LifeWorks course at the Blind Veterans UK Llandudno centre, which helps younger veterans to get back into work.

Gary said: “The training Blind Veterans UK has given me has really made a big difference. I’m in the process of deciding what career path I’d like to go down but thanks to Blind Veterans UK I feel more confident and certain of what I would enjoy doing.”

"The support I have received from Blind Veterans UK has been excellent. The staff are really welcoming and helpful. On my introduction week it was useful to find out what support I could have as, prior to that, I had been dealing with my sight loss alone for years."

You too can make sure Gary and other veterans get to the Cenotaph

Book an eye test at your local Specsavers in the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday or pop by and add loose change into their donation buckets. You might even be able to get involved with an in-store event. Call your local store or ask in store for more details.

Your support means that we can cover the costs of sending our veterans to Remembrance Sunday.

From transport, to providing wheelchairs for those of our veterans who are less mobile and even hosting a lunch after the ceremony. Thank you for enabling blind veterans from across the country to meet, share their stories and support one another.

"Remembrance Sunday is always a very poignant time for our blind veterans and it is fantastic that Specsavers are able to support them to march at the Cenotaph."

Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin

Blind Veterans UK is the national charity for blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, providing vital practical and emotional support to help veterans discover life beyond sight loss.

Today, Blind Veterans UK supports more blind and vision-impaired veterans than ever before in the charity’s history and we have set an ambitious target to double the number of veterans we support in the next five years.

The charity estimates that there are currently 59,000 blind veterans that would be eligible to access our specialist support, most of whom are not currently aware of it.