Two Conwy blind veterans are currently training for a 22-mile walk along on the Normandy coastline to commemorate the anniversary of D-Day.
Carl Adamson, 44, and Steve Thomas, 46, will take part in the event alongside four other blind veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women. The challenge will take place on 6 June, the anniversary of the 1944 Allied invasion of occupied France.
Carl, originally from Widnes but now living in Llandudno, says: “We’ve been training on the North Wales costal path, which I think should put us in good stead for the Normandy beaches. As veterans ourselves it’s going to be very poignant walking in the footsteps of those brave men who risked their lives of the beaches of France and we’re hugely honoured to be taking part.”
Steve, from Llanrwst, says: “Both my Grandfathers fought in the Second World War and I also lost a Great-uncle, which makes taking part in this event feel more personal. This walk will be very much about keeping their memory alive, as well as thinking of everyone who has served in the Armed Forces.”
Carl joined the Cheshire Regiment in 1995 aged 21 and lost his sight while serving in Northern Ireland in 1997. Two weeks into his tour he was travelling in an armoured Land Rover when it flipped over at a roadblock, crushing him underneath and causing life-threatening head injuries. He has since had 14 operations to reconstruct his face but has lost the sight in one eye completely, and has blurred vision in the other.
Of the first months following the accident, Carl says: “I felt like I was alone with no one to turn to and suffered quite severe bouts of depression. When Blind Veterans UK got in touch I was at my lowest point. If it weren’t for the charity I honestly don’t know where I’d be.”
Steve joined the Army straight from school aged 16. He served with The Royal Signals in Northern Ireland and Germany as a driver linesman, before eventually leaving the Army as a Signalman in 1992. Steve has macular edema, which has affected his central vision, and retitnius pigmentosa, which among others things makes him completely blind at night.
Carl has been supported by Blind Veterans UK for more than 15 years, while Steve joined more recently in 2012. Both have received training, equipment and support to help them adapt to their sight loss.
Carl and Steve have been encouraged by the charity to try sports and activities like golf, dry slope skiing and hiking to boost their confidence and independence. They now volunteer with the Sports and Recreation team at Blind Veterans UK’s Llandudno rehabilitation and training centre, running a weekly archery club for other vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.
Steve says: “Losing my sight meant I also eventually had to leave my job, which really affected my confidence. But since I started receiving support from Blind Veterans UK the staff are constantly signing me up for events and encouraging me to push myself, which has helped me rebuild the independence I lost along with my vision.”
Steve and Carl both took part in Blind Veterans UK’s 100K Yorkshire ultra-challenge in 2016, which saw them walk 100km through the Yorkshire Dales. Steve took part in the event for a second time last year.
Carl says: “The life changing support we’ve received has made us determined to give something back, and seeing other blind veterans build their confidence and independence through sports and fitness is incredibly rewarding.”
He continues: “I know that the D-Day challenge is going to be tough but doing it as part of a team with other veterans like myself is something I’m really looking forward to. I hope that others are inspired by our example, because it goes to show that sight loss shouldn’t stop you taking on a new challenge!”
In 2009 Lt Col. Mike McErlain, with his wife Jo, set up the D-Day 44 Challenge, which involves a 44-mile run or 22-mile walk through fields, villages and beaches along the Normandy coastline. Sadly, Mike died while doing the run on 6 June 2013, but with the blessing of Mike’s widow, Jo, the event returns in 2018 to raise money for Blind Veterans UK, Combat Stress and BLESMA.
To support Carl and Steve as they take part in the D-Day 44 Challenge, head to justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/blindveterans/d-day
For all media enquiries please contact: Ruth Moore, PR and Communications Executive, Blind Veterans UK, 12 – 14 Harcourt Street, London W1H 4HD, E: email@example.com, T: 020 7616 7955
Notes to Editor
Blind Veterans UK
Blind Veterans UK is a national charity that believes that no-one who has served our country should have to battle blindness alone. Founded in 1915, the charity provides blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women with lifelong support including welfare support, rehabilitation, training, residential and respite care.