Blind veteran proud to be standard-bearer for official Armed Forces Day parade.
A vision-impaired Army veteran has spoken of how proud he is to be the standard-bearer for national charity Blind Veterans UK at the Armed Forces Day celebrations this Saturday.
69-year-old Chesterfield resident Brian Eldridge will march with the charity's standard during the official parade of the national Armed Forces Day event in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire.
Brian said: "I'm very happy and proud to be carrying the official standard for Blind Veterans UK. It's such a special charity and I do everything I can to promote the work that they do for veterans like me.
"I'm really looking forward to the celebrations in Cleethorpes this year. It will be so lovely to see all the crowds clapping and cheering for us. I carried the Blind Veterans UK standard during the 2014 Armed Forces Day parade and it was such a memorable experience. To have the opportunity to do it again is fantastic."
Brian joined the Royal Army Veterinary Corps in August 1966, training with the Fusiliers in Sutton Coldfield and completing his specialist training in Melton Mowbray. He served in Hong Kong, Germany, Cypress and Singapore as a dog trainer before he was discharged as a corporal in 1975.
Later in life, Brian discovered he has a rare genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which gradually robbed him of his sight. He was registered blind in 2001.
Fortunately, another veteran encouraged Brian to get in touch with national charity Blind Veterans UK. The charity believes that no one who has served our country should have to battle blindness alone, regardless of when or how they lost their sight. Brian has received free support, equipment and training from the charity since 2006.
Brian said: "Blind Veterans UK picked me up again and put me back on my feet. The charity not only looks after me but also provides respite and support to my wife, Margaret, who will be marching alongside me on the day.
"I am a very positive person, so when I lost my vision I knew that I was not going to give up. I am still able to listen to my friend's voices and I can hear the birds in the morning. My sight loss brought with it new challenges and Blind Veterans UK has helped me to deal with them. I don't feel like I have any limitations in my life.”
Armed Forces Day is the UK’s annual celebration of the nation’s Armed Forces, past and present. The event in Cleethorpes will include a parade of serving personnel, veterans and cadets as well as military-themed events and displays. Blind Veterans UK will be also hosting a stand in the dedicated Veterans Village to make sure that veterans with vision-impairment know about the support available to them.
On the importance of Armed Forces Day, Brian said: "For me, Armed Forces Day is a period of reflection. On Saturday we will have the opportunity to show the country how important the Armed Forces are. It is also an occasion where veterans can come together and remember that we are not alone. The best part of the day for me is experiencing a sense of camaraderie again that I felt when I was in the Forces."
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. The charity has three centres in Brighton, Sheffield and Llandudno, North Wales and a network of Welfare Officers around the UK.