Help veterans like Steve march at the Cenotaph this Remembrance Sunday

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

56-year-old Steve from Exmouth 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 Steve, to march.

Steve joined the Royal Marines in 1980 and served in the Falklands War. He says: “I loved my time in Service. I remember doing a patrol in the Falklands and a local family came out and gave me a bowl of soup and thanked us for helping.”

Steve Sparks

 He says: “I’m hugely looking forward to visiting the Cenotaph again. Everyone on the parade is there to remember all those that have put their life on the line. When the two minutes’ silence happens it’s an amazing experience and you lose yourself.

"I think about those we lost in the Falklands, particularly my Section Commander Lofty Watts. He had a wife and family and I always think about him. After marching there’s also a big reunion of blind veterans, people you might not have seen for years, which is very special."

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.

Steve lost his sight following a training incident after applying to join the Special Boat Service (SBS) in 1982. He was starved of oxygen and, despite making a full recovery, his sight began to deteriorate over the next couple of months. His sight continued to deteriorate and, as a result, he had to be discharged 18 months later.

He says: “The sight loss was very gradual. I was told I had a lazy left eye so thought I would be alright. I carried on with my eye condition basically covering it up.  I was absolutely gutted to be discharged and ended up moving to Malta for ten years to get away from it all.

“I have no macular so have no central vision at all. If you put your fist up in front of your eye it’s like that.”

Steve found out about Blind Veterans UK whilst living in Malta, almost ten years after losing his sight. He says: “I met a lady in Malta through SSAFA and I was told that Blind Veterans UK, or St Dunstan’s as it was known then, was looking for me as they had a record of me being discharged with an eye condition.

He says: “There’s so much I’ve been able to do with Blind Veterans UK. I’ve been skiing with them for the last eighteen years which is something I never thought I’d be able to do. Over the years I’ve been provided with readers and talking computers which are a huge help. You can keep your independence and that’s massive. I can do anything now. I’m on a level par with anyone. I get great pleasure from hearing people say ‘there’s nothing wrong with his sight’!”

"I can honestly say that Blind Veterans UK rescued me. I was going nowhere and had lost my morale. They gave me purpose in life again and opportunities to move forward."

You too can make sure Steve 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.