Worthing veteran celebrates centenary of military charity

3 March 2015 17:27

A local veteran who has received vital support from Blind Veterans UK celebrated the centenary of the charity at a special reunion event this week (18/03).

John Gasston, 77 and from Findon, reunited with several other veterans helped by Blind Veterans UK to mark the military charity's 100 years of proud service to blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.

John joined the Royal Rhodesia Regiment in 1962. Tragically, he lost his sight on active duty in 1975 when a hand grenade exploded 6 inches from him, injuring his arm, as well as his eyesight. 

He recovered and carried on working as long as he was able to in Rhodesia - now Zimbabwe - but his sight had deteriorated to such an extent that he was forced to retire on medical grounds and he moved to the UK in 1989.

John has received help and support from Blind Veterans UK for 25 years and he joined fellow veterans at the special lunch in the charity's centre in Brighton this week.

John says: "Instantly losing your sight in the way I did is, of course, a great shock. It took me a very long time to come to terms with it. I'm a very practical person and it was so frustrating not to be able to do simple tasks anymore."

John has received help from Blind Veterans UK to allow him to learn new skills and keep living as independently as possible. The charity trained him as an engraver and many of the brass plaques in its Brighton centre today were engraved by John. He has also received training and support to allow him to utilise IT to keep in touch with friends and family. John also joined the Blind Veterans UK ski club at the age of 69!

He says: "Blind Veterans UK has been such a help to me for the last 25 years. The support that they have given me has been so valuable. They help by providing equipment and training that allows me to keep my independence." 

Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstan's) 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.

Blind Veterans UK is currently reaching out to more veterans like John.  If you know someone who served in the Armed Forces, or those who did National Service, and is now battling severe sight problems, Blind Veterans UK may be able to provide them and their family with a lifetime's practical and emotional support for free.

Call freephone - 0800 389 7979 or go to now.