Remembering National Service
This May, it will be sixty years since the last National Serviceman was discharged. Today, many of those who served are struggling with sight loss.
Blind veterans John and Bob reflect on their experiences and their struggles with sight loss.
Will you be there for them - just as they were there for us?
In 1958, John began his National Service.
He was trained in intelligence and it was an experience he relished. Not only was it fascinating, but he says it made him a better person.
"It gave me self-confidence and new skills. You learn how to lead people and take personal responsibility. And if you had a task to do, you did it with pride. Other people depended on you so you got on and did it." He took this work ethic into his career, where he also appreciated having worked under commanding officers from Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Combined nations' operations prepared him for business relationships.
Now, John is completely blind.
His wife, Liz, says finding Blind Veterans UK - after he was diagnosed with age related macular degeneration - made such a difference to John.
"He was extremely depressed before he went to the Blind Veterans UK induction. He was never like that before. When he came home from that first visit, he was so different, it was like a weight had lifted. The kids said he was like the Dad he had always been again."
John has managed to stay busy and engaged. His support worker has advised him which bits of equipment he should try, like a voice-activated "Alexa" device to access information and store his lists. He can also still make his famous lemon drizzle cake. John says the secret is in measuring everything, including weighing the eggs. Blind Veterans UK provided him with a set of talking scales so the magic can still happen. It's so useful to him that John has named it Gerald! "He's a great friend," he jokes.
Above all, John is grateful that Blind Veterans UK gives him the same sense of belonging as National Service did.
National Service veterans are all elderly now.
It brings extra complications to a battle with sight loss.
Did you know?
Bob enjoyed National Service so much that he enlisted.
Bob, now 88, says National Service gave him a step up the ladder. He had no trade and no qualifications but was able to get experience that took him around the world.
He was sent to Berlin and was there as the wall went up. As a medic, he was responsible for all the medical attention that was required by the Nazi prisoners in Spandau jail. He saw the value of National Service in the hospital he worked in. Over 70% of the staff were there because of it: learning, upskilling and qualifying.
“I’d missed out an education in the early 50s. I was able to catch up on education, but at the same time I was learning something that I was interested in. That's why I stayed on."
Now, Bob is losing his sight.
He was awarded an MBE for services to the community, but now it is Bob's turn to be looked after. He loves the magnifier that helps him read, the talking books that fill his time and his accessible computer. And, most importantly, he's not lonely. We make sure there's always someone at the other end of the phone; it's been especially important for Bob since his beloved wife died.
“I've been on my own for 18 months. I've had good support from Blind Veterans UK, and I've been to a centre twice since she passed on. I'm very, very pleased that I'm a member of Blind Veterans UK. It's done me very, very well."
Please join us as we remember the contribution of our National Servicemen.
Bob and John are so grateful for the support they've received.
You can be there for other blind veterans. Just like they were there for us.
Will you donate today to protect another blind veteran from loneliness?