Help veterans like John march at the Cenotaph this Remembrance Sunday

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

69-year-old John from Banbury 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 John, to march.

John joined the Royal Air Force in 1970 where he was part of the Motor Transport Service Section (MTSS). Whilst with the RAF he was stationed in RAF St. Athan, RAF Lucas, RAF Old Sarum, RAF Salalah, Cyprus and Anguila. He met his wife Elaine while he was stationed in Cyprus where she was an RAF Nurse. He left the RAF in 1980.

He says:  “I feel incredibly privileged to be attending the national commemorations with Blind Veterans UK again. They’re a great bunch of guys, you never know who you’re stood next to and what their story is.”

Blind veteran John Cantwell

"It always is an emotional day. It’s about remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Even now there are those who are putting their lives on the line to help defend people who cannot defend themselves."

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.

John suffers from a genetic skin disease called keratosis pilaris also known as “chicken skin” disease. He says the disease never troubled him, however a side effect was that it made him lose his sight. John says: “It was very gradual so I had time to adjust. They told me they couldn’t do anything to fix my eyes, which strangely was a blessing as I had to accept it and it made me adapt to my circumstances.”

John has been receiving free help and support from Blind Veterans UK since 2010. He has gone on many training and activity weeks, including walking weeks, often as part of training for endurance challenges that he completes to raise money for the charity. This year he completed the charity’s 100K Yorkshire event. In addition, John and his wife Elaine represented the charity as ambassadors at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show where Blind Veterans UK had a gold medal winning show garden.

"There’s so much that both my wife and I have got out of our time with the charity. We arrange a local lunch club which is always well appreciated and allows all the blind veterans in the area to keep in touch."

You too can make sure John 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.