A former boy soldier from Sutton Coldfield is backing our campaign this Remembrance to reach the 59,000 people who could be eligible for our free services but do not yet realise it.
John says: “It’s really important that veterans living with sight loss know that they are eligible for support. I know first-hand how difficult losing your sight is, and I can’t thank Blind Veterans UK enough for the help they gave me during what was a very difficult period in my life.”
John joined the General Service Corps as a boy soldier at the age of 15. He trained as a bricklayer at the Army Apprentice School in Harrogate and after his discharge he continued to work in the building trade until his retirement.
John lost his sight later in life when he was diagnosed with central retinal vein occlusion, a condition which means the veins to his retinas are blocked. This caused partial sight loss 32 years ago, but in 2011 John became almost completely blind overnight when he fell off his bike and the trauma of the impact caused him to lose his remaining vision.
John says: “I was devastated because I’d always been a very active man and suddenly I felt vulnerable. Hobbies that I had previously enjoyed, like playing the saxophone, suddenly seemed impossible.”
Fortunately, John was signposted to our support in 2014. He has since attended an introduction week at our centre in Brighton, where he learned to adapt to his sight loss, and received equipment to help him around the house, including a talking watch, an LED lamp and a liquid level indicator.
When we heard of John’s passion for music, we also provided him with a SightPlus headset. This enhances his remaining vision and allows him to magnify music to a size that is comfortable for reading.
John says: “It’s amazing. The software means that I can play music again, and even my neighbours have been telling me how much they enjoy hearing me play. It’s small things like this that have really given me back my independence.”
John continues: “I’m sure there are hundreds of others like me who served and who are now experiencing sight loss. Whether you were a boy soldier like me, or served in the Armed Forces and have now lost your sight, you are eligible for support from Blind Veterans UK.”