Blind veteran from Suffolk marches with his guide dog on Remembrance Sunday with 100 year old military charity
4 November 2015 16:13
A blind veteran from Suffolk has marched with his guide dog together with other blind veterans to the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday with Blind Veterans UK.
Chris Francis, 60 from Sudbury, and his guide dog Nimbus joined more than 100 other representatives of Blind Veterans UK, which this year celebrates 100 years of service to vision impaired ex-Service men and women.
Chris joined the Royal Air Force in 1978 as a Physical Training Instructor and became involved with adventure training and outdoor activities. He was already qualified as a parachutist and then joined the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team based at RAF Brize Norton.
Chris and Nimbus
After leaving the RAF in 1987 Chris set up his own parachute school. His job as a freelance instructor took him all around the world including India, Spain, Ireland and Oman.
Chris began to lose his sight in 1998 when he was diagnosed with uveitis, however, his life changed completely when, in 2009, Chris lost almost all of his vision overnight.
Chris says: "I was able to manage with the uveitis for 10 years but I remember driving to work in the morning and starting to have some vision problems. It got worse throughout the day and a colleague drove me home. The next morning I could see almost nothing."
"I didn't know about Blind Veterans UK until my ex-wife put me in touch with them. I'm so glad she did, it's the best thing that's ever happened to me."
He has received help and support from Blind Veterans UK since 2011 to allow him to continue to live as independently as possible. Action man Chris has also been on several activity weeks with the charity and has just returned from a cycling week at the Blind Veterans UK Llandudno centre.
Chris says: "Sight loss affects your life in many ways but the most noticeable one for me was that it took the spontaneity and freedom out of life. Blind Veterans UK helps give that back.
"I love visiting the charity's three centres and meeting and speaking to other blind veterans. You can share experiences with likeminded people and knowing you're not alone is hugely confidence building.
"Blind Veterans UK is there for you for as much or little as you need and I know there is a supporting arm if I need it."
Chris contacted the charity Guide Dogs in 2013 and was paired with his guide dog Nimbus. He says: "He's a great dog and has made a real difference in my life. He gives me that extra edge of confidence when out walking."
This year was the first time Chris has marched at the Cenotaph and he was joined by his guide dog as this year marked the first year guide dogs joined Blind Veterans UK on the parade on Remembrance Sunday.
Chris says: "It was important to me to march with Nimbus as both Guide Dogs and Blind Veterans UK have been such a help."
Chris and Nimbus marched together with more than 100 other blind veterans on Remembrance Sunday (08/11).
He says: "Remembrance Sunday has a strong personal connotation for me as both my grandparents and my father fought in the two world wars. It's such an important day and I was very proud to be there."
Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 and the charity's initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in World War I. But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning World War II to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.
For 100 years, the charity has been providing vital free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to blind and vision impaired veterans no matter when they served or how they lost their sight.