A blind veteran from Northamptonshrie is set to march at the Cenotaph in London this Remembrance Sunday with the charity Blind Veterans UK.
Roger Hayes, 74 and from Piddington, will be marching at the Cenotaph in London with more than 100 other blind veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.
Mr Hayes said: “I am absolutely delighted to have been given the opportunity to march at the Cenotaph with Blind Veterans UK. It will be a meaningful day for me and to share it with other blind veterans will be very special.”
Mr Hayes joined the London Scottish Regiment of the Army in 1961. He and a friend had spoken to a recruiter on a whim and before Roger knew it, he had signed up. After transferring to the Royal Military Police in 1962 he served in various postings in the UK and across Europe.
He said: “I enjoyed my time with the Royal Military Police tremendously. I served with so many interesting people and made lasting friendships. The Army taught me lessons that I could not have learned anywhere else and I would recommend it to anyone.”
Mr Hayes served for seven years and was discharged in 1968. Years later, Roger’s father was diagnosed with glaucoma, which is a hereditary condition, so Roger decided to get his own eyes tested. He discovered that he also had glaucoma but at that point he didn’t have any symptoms.
“From that test I knew that my glaucoma would only get worse. It wasn’t until 2012 when I was playing lawn bowls that I noticed I was struggling to see the numbers on the bowling green. From then on my sight started to deteriorate and I now have no sight at all," he added.
Fortunately, Mr Hayes was signposted to Blind Veterans UK by the charity Guide Dogs and he started to receive support from the military charity in 2015.
“I found it difficult to come to terms with my sight loss but the support and guidance I’ve received from Blind Veterans UK has made all the difference. I cannot praise the charity enough," he added.
Mr Hayes has received specialist computer equipment from Blind Veterans UK and taken part in an IT training course to help him to live independently with sight loss. He has also completed an arts and crafts course with the charity and enjoyed discovering new hobbies like making mosaics.
“My visits to the Blind Veterans UK centres have been some of the happiest weeks of my life. The staff are always so kind and they have given me brilliant instruction. I wish that I had been told about Blind Veterans UK as soon as I’d lost my sight," he added.
This November coincides with the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Somme. Blind Veterans UK supported more than 250 blinded veterans who lost their sight at the Somme.
Chief executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, said: “This year’s Remembrance Sunday is particularly poignant as our delegation of current blind veterans remember those blinded at the Somme but also those who didn’t make it back.
“Today, Blind Veterans UK supports more blind and vision-impaired veterans than ever before in the charity’s history and we have set an ambitious target to double the number of veterans we support in the next five years.”
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 noonealone.org.uk.