Terminally-ill veteran skydived from 13,000 feet
A blind veteran from Somerset has ticked a tandem skydive off his bucket list while raising over £3,000 for our charity who he says "saved my life."
Mark, who is 58, wanted to complete the parachute jump while he was still able.
On Sunday May 28, Mark was strapped to a tandem instructor and experienced a few seconds of free-fall before the parachute was opened for the final glide back down to solid ground. He says:
“The whole day was brilliant, I had fantastic weather and lots of friends, some who I hadn’t seen for over a year, came to support me."
In the run up to the jump Mark became unwell with pneumonia but he didn’t let that stop him.
Watch Mark's skydive
This short video was recorded on the day to capture his experience and shows Mark before, during and after his skydive.
Credit: Army Parachute Association Netheravon. Mark was due to jump from 8,000 feet but actually exited the plane at 13,000 feet as confirmed by the official altimeter.
Mark served in the Light Infantry between 1984 and 1993 as a bugler, a driver and a rifleman. During his nine years he spent time in Germany and Gibraltar.
It was in 2000 while working as a driver that Mark first noticed there was a problem with his sight. He visited the opticians and the hospital and discovered he had amblyopia, which is a hereditary eye condition that causes a break down in how the brain and the eye work together.
From then Mark's eyesight gradually deteriorated and in 2011 he was registered blind. At that stage Mark had 15% sight remaining in one eye and nothing in the other. He said:
“I took the news really badly and didn’t go out for ten years, I couldn’t see the point in living and was in a really dark place. I joined Blind Veterans UK in 2012 and that was the first time I reached out and accepted help.
“Even then I reluctantly visited the charity’s Centre of Wellbeing in Brighton for my introduction week, I was still blaming the world for my sight loss."
We helped Mark to realise there is life after sight loss. He began to accept blindness and the support on offer from other blind veterans and our staff. Mark said:
"You are never alone which is particularly important to me right now."
We offer rehabilitation and we help our veterans to rekindle old hobbies and interests or discover new ones. With the encouragement of staff at the Brighton Centre, Mark began to get better and better at photography.
Along with a group of fellow blind veterans, Mark helped to set up photography weeks at the centres and passed his experience on to other veterans.
Mark also photographed our charity events. One of Mark's fondest memories is of photographing an event at the Tower of London and he describes the opportunity as an honour.
Staff taught Mark to mount and frame his photographs and he now has a workshop in his garden.
Mark has always wanted to do a skydive and approached us to see if we could help make his life-long ambition a reality. He says:
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to do this. It’s wonderful that the charity is still helping me at this stage in my life.
“Giving back is important to me; helping with the photography weeks and events used to be my way of paying back to the charity that has helped me so much but I’m not able to do that anymore so this parachute jump has been my small way of saying thank you."
“I can’t thank people enough for helping me to raise such a wonderful amount of money already. Thank you isn’t enough, but I do thank each and everyone one of the people that has donated from the bottom of my heart.”