There’s ‘snow’ looking back for Cornwall blind veteran ski club President Gerry
31 January 2017 12:00
A blind veteran from Cornwall has been skiing in Italy, with other vision-impaired Armed Forces veterans thanks to national military charity, Blind Veterans UK.
This January, Gerry Jones, 75 and from St Agnes, Cornwall was excited to ski again with the support of Blind Veterans UK.
Gerry went skiing in the Dolomites mountain range with 18 other vision-impaired skiers for the charity’s 40th annual skiing trip. Gerry is president of the ski club and was very proud to be part of the special anniversary trip.
Gerry says: “This year was particularly special for all of us. Forty years is an exceptionally long time and it’s great to still have the old faces here, as well as the new ones.” In 1960, Gerry attended Sandhurst for two years, before joining the Royal Army Service Corps. Gerry was involved in Air Dispatch and was also parachute trained before applying for a flying course. Gerry then flew scout helicopters all across Europe during the Cold War. Gerry said “The whole thing was absolutely fantastic. I fell in love with the flying”. Sadly though, in late 1969, Gerry was involved with a helicopter crash on active duty which resulted in the loss of his sight.
Gerry recalls the experience and said: “I struggled with my sight loss at the time, having lost my position in the Army. Luckily I was told about Blind Veterans UK”
It was in 1972 that Gerry was first made aware of Blind Veterans UK, previously known as St Dunstan’s. Due to his time in service, Gerry’s was entitled to the charity’s free lifelong services and support. He says “I was told about Blind Veterans UK, then St. Dunstans, by another member of the Armed Forces and I haven’t looked back since”.
For Gerry, a particular member of staff at the charity helped him enormously in dealing with sight loss. He said “Laurie Slade was very important in helping me. He was the one that really gave me the confidence to join.”
Shortly after becoming a beneficiary, Gerry visited Blind Veterans UK’s training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton for an induction into the charity.
It was in 1980 when Gerry first became involved with the Blind Veterans UK ski trip, despite having never skied before. Now 75 years of age, 2017 marked Gerry’s 37th year on the trip. He says “During my time on the ski trips I’ve really met some wonderful characters. It’s really taught me to live. I felt that if I could ski, I could do anything.”
Gerry now holds the role of president of the ski club, following two decades of successfully organising the trip alongside his current guide, Martin Blank. He said “I couldn’t have organised it for those years without Martin. We could really see a difference in the group by the end of the week, especially in the newbies”.
Each vision-impaired skier was accompanied by a sighted guide for the duration of their time on the slopes. Gerry was full of praise for Blind Veterans UK. “Without a doubt, I wouldn’t have gone skiing if not for Blind Veterans UK.”
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 estimates that there are currently 755 blind veterans in Cornwall that would be eligible to access its specialist support, most of whom are not currently aware of it.
If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces or did National Service and are now battling severe sight loss, find out how Blind Veterans UK could help by calling 0800 389 7979 or visiting noonealone.org.uk.