Andy Stowe, 61 and from Mansfield, was supported to do this by Specsavers stores including Crystal Peaks, which raised over £100. The money went towards sending blind veterans, including Andy, to march.
Andy marched with more than 100 other blind veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.
Andy says: “This was my first time marching. It was something I’d been looking forward to doing since 1986 and I have to say, it was even better than expected.
“The best part was probably the marching, thought maybe that was just because it kept me warm!
“The crowds really surprised me. A veteran I was marching with told me that the hairs on the back of my neck would stand up, and they honestly did. All the emotions just came into play, it was really quite a special moment.”
Andy served as a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy from 1973 to 1986. He served at HMS Fisgard, HMS Cardiff, HMS Edinburgh, HMS Caledonia and HMS Kent and worked as a mechanical engineer, and later as an instructor in engineering and maintenance for new recruits.
Andy says: “I was a sea cadet who had always dreamed of being in the Royal Navy and it didn’t disappoint. I made good friends and I really enjoyed my work as an engineer. It was an experience that set me up well for later life, both in terms of the discipline and the independence it fostered.”
Andy began to lose his sight due to glaucoma in 1994, and he was told by doctors that unless he underwent a series of operations he was likely to become completely blind. Andy has since undertaken treatment to slow the progression of his sight loss, but it has had an impact on his life.
Andy says: “I felt very frustrated initially and I didn’t want to admit it was happening. I feel grateful that treatment means I still have some vision, but it has affected me. For instance now I have to plan things well in advance because I can’t drive.”
Andy found out about the support of Blind Veterans UK through his father-in-law, who served in the Royal Tank Regiment. He joined the charity in 2014.
Andy says: “Blind Veterans UK has been absolutely fantastic. I was greeted as though I was a member of the family and had been known to them for years.”
Andy took an induction week at one of the charity’s rehabilitation centres, and has received equipment such as a talking watch, a talking tape measure and a talking pen for labelling food items. Andy has also taken a course in woodturning, which he particularly enjoyed.
Andy says: “It was absolutely amazing to get hands on in a way I thought my sight loss would stop be from doing. The staff at Blind Veterans UK even gave me some equipment to take home, which means I can carry on pursuing woodturning as a hobby.”
Andy marched with other vision-impaired ex-Service men and women supported by Blind Veterans UK as part of the national Remembrance Sunday commemorations in London on Sunday 12 November 2017. Specsavers stores across the country were fundraising from 6 – 12 November. You can support their activity online at blindveterans.org.uk/helpandy.
Specsavers has supported Blind Veterans UK since 2012 and, as well as raising money for the charity, has referred a number of customers to them so they can access its support.
Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB says: “Remembrance Sunday is always a very poignant time for our blind veterans and it is fantastic that Specsavers were able to support them to get to march at the Cenotaph.”
Blind Veterans UK is the national charity for blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, providing vital practical and emotional support to help veterans discover life beyond sight loss. The charity estimates that there are currently 59,000 blind veterans that would be eligible to access its specialist support, most of whom are not currently aware of it.
If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces or did National Service and are now battling severe sight loss, find out how Blind Veterans UK could help by calling 0800 389 7979 or visiting blindveterans.org.uk
For all media enquiries please contact: Felix Arbenz-Caines, PR Assistant, Blind Veterans UK, 12 – 14 Harcourt Street, London W1H 4HD, E: firstname.lastname@example.org, T: 020 7616 7941
Notes to Editor
Blind Veterans UK
Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstan’s) is a national charity that believes that no-one who has served our country should have to battle blindness alone. It provides blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women with lifelong support including welfare support, rehabilitation, training, residential and respite care.