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Terminally-ill veteran skydived from 13,000 feet

Published on 31 May 2023

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.

Mark kneeling down next to his guide dog
Mark with his guide dog Echo
Mark and the tandem instructor gliding towards the ground with the parachute open
Mark during his skydive. Credit: Army Parachute Association Netheravon
Image shows the wing of the plane and the fields below
View from the plane ahead of Mark's skydive. Credit: Army Parachute Association Netheravon

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.

"I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The experience was everything I could have hoped for, the instructor was my eyes and explained everything that he could see on the way down. The adrenaline certainly got me through and when the excitement wore off, the enormity of the adventure took it’s toll on my body, but it was worth it.”
Blind veteran

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.

Click to watch the video

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.

You can still show your support for Mark and help him to boost his fundraising total.

Sponsor Mark's challenge

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."
"I credit the charity with saving my life, if it wasn’t for the fantastic support I’ve received I wouldn’t be here today. I can’t thank them enough."
Blind veteran
Mark being guided onto the plane by his tandem instructor
Mark boarding the plane. Credit: Army Parachute Association Netheravon
Mark with his tandem instructor strapped to the back of him as they exit the open plane door
Mark exiting the plane. Credit: Army Parachute Association Netheravon
Mark and his tandem instructor approaching the ground and getting into position for the landing with yellow open parachute above them
Mark coming in to land. Credit: Army Parachute Association Netheravon

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 with two thumbs up onboard the plane with a group of other jumpers and instructors
Mark sat on the plane as it climbs to the correct altitude. Credit: Army Parachute Association Netheravon
Mark and the tandem instructor falling headfirst in freefall before the parachute is opened. The plane is above them and the fields below
Mark in freefall. Credit: Army Parachute Association Netheravon
Mark and his instructor stood together in the field where they landed with thumbs up
Mark and his tandem instructor after their skydive. Credit: Army Parachute Association Netheravon

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’ve been a member of Blind Veterans UK for 12 years; the charity gave me back my life when I was ready to throw in the towel and are supporting me right to the end to do things that I never thought I’d be able to do."
Blind veteran
“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.”

You can still show your support for Mark and help him to boost his fundraising total.

Sponsor Mark's challenge

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