Fighting fit: blind RAF veteran thanks Blind Veterans UK

13 March 2014 14:45

Former National Service man, 78 year old Robert Harvey, speaks about the 'tremendous' support he has received from Blind Veterans UK.

Lifelong sportsman 78 year old Robert Harvey from Galashiels is a former National Service man who once played for Manchester United Youth team, has spoken recently about the tremendous support he has received from Blind Veterans UK.

Robert began to lose his sight decades after he left the Armed Forces, being diagnosed with glaucoma, which has gradually degraded his sight. He says: "I remember the first time I realised that I was losing my sight - I was out for a walk when I realised that my eyes were blurring over."

In his youth, Robert had a successful sporting career, which kicked off when he became a member of the Manchester United Youth Team, aged just 14. Robert stayed with the team until being called up for National Service in 1953. Robert served in the RAF as a junior technician, specialising in radar, but soon returned to sports after finishing his Service in 1958.

Over the years that followed, Robert went on to coach football, as well as squash, rugby, fencing, cricket, swimming, mountaineering, orienteering, canoeing, yoga and even tai chi. "Fortunately, Blind Veterans UK was there to help me when I needed them. They've given me some tremendous support, including magnifiers to help me read and kitchen gadgets that talk to me so I don't have to be able to see them."

Robert's personal trainer, 27-year old Mikey Mair, called Robert an "inspiration" after the veteran continued to keep fit after suffering from a stroke three years ago. Mikey says: "I have such a massive amount of respect for him - he's had this incredible career in sport, from playing for Manchester United to being in the RAF, all the way to training the next generation of sportspeople. He's a real inspiration, and great to work with."

As well as offering training, Mikey, who is about to move to New Zealand for two years to pursue his career as a personal trainer, helped Robert set up a personal gym in his garage.

"I've been training Robert for a while now and he just hasn't slowed down - he's even taken up boxing. It's been a challenge training someone with sight loss, but we've made adaptations, like using brightly-coloured pads and gloves that he can see more easily."

Research shows that there are 68,000 plus blind veterans who, like Robert, could be eligible for our free support and services but are not currently aware of this.

If you know someone who served in the Armed Forces or did National Service who is battling sight loss request free support by calling 0800 389 7979.