Yorkshire blind veteran celebrates centenary of military charity
3 March 2015 17:52
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 (26/03).
Ben Smith, 82 and from Whitby, 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.
After university, Ben took up a short service commission in the education branch of the Royal Air Force. He served from 1955 to 1958 in the 2 Tactical Air Force in Germany part of the NATO defences against the threatened Soviet attack on Western Europe. He was based at two flying stations very close to the Iron Curtain Fassberg and Wunstorf. They had been crucial in the Berlin Airlift and infrastructure remained in case of further need.
His war role would have been in cipher and he took part in NATO exercises with personnel from other countries, especially the Netherlands. His duties in the General Education Services were very varied, but probably the most rewarding to him was helping National Service men to obtain qualifications they had missed out on at school so that they could obtain better jobs back in civilian life.
Ben has received help and support from Blind Veterans UK since early 2014. He was diagnosed with Glaucoma in 1980 and slowly lost his sight over the years. In 2010 Ben was registered blind.
Ben says: "Losing your sight is incredibly frustrating. It's one of those things life throws at you that you just have deal with and get on.
"I wasn't aware Blind Veterans UK existed and could support me. A county social worker told me about them and I called them as soon as possible. If only I had known about them a few years earlier."
Ben receives help from Blind Veterans UK which allows him to live independently and has received training to use equipment such as a long cane.
Ben says: "The support I've had from Blind Veterans UK has been invaluable. My wife died eight years ago but the charity makes it possible for me to still live on my own."
"The best thing Blind Veterans UK has done for me is give me a voice recorder and a very sophisticated magnifier. I give talks and now I can record my thoughts and actually read my notes!"
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 Ben. 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 www.noonealone.org.uk now.