Blind veteran from Banbury to join Cenotaph march

John Cantwell and guide Dawn Brown NNL-170711-162126001
John Cantwell and guide Dawn Brown NNL-170711-162126001

A blind veteran from Banbury says he feels ‘incredibly privileged’ to be joining the Remembrance Day commemorations at the Cenotaph in London.

John Cantwell, 69, will march with the charity Blind Veterans UK on Sunday along with more than 100 other blind veterans who are supported by the charity.

John and Elaine Cantwell NNL-170711-161925001

John and Elaine Cantwell NNL-170711-161925001

He is being helped by Oxford Specsavers in Queen Streetwhich is raising money all this week to help send blind veterans, including Mr Cantwell, to the event.

Mr Cantwell said: “I feel incredibly privileged to be attending the national commemorations with Blind Veterans UK again.

“It always is an emotional day. It’s about remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

“Even now there are those putting their lives on the line to help defend people who cannot defend themselves.”

John joined the Royal Air Force in 1970 where he was part of the Motor Transport Service Section (MTSS). He met his wife Elaine while stationed in Cyprus where she was an RAF Nurse. He left the RAF in 1980.

He suffers from a genetic skin disease called keratosis pilaris, a side effect of which was gradual loss of his sight.

John says “It was very gradual so I had time to adjust. They told me they couldn’t do anything to fix my eyes, which strangely was a blessing as I had to accept it and it made me adapt to my circumstances.”

John has gone on many training and activity weeks, including walking weeks, often as part of training for endurance challenges to raise money for the charity. This year he completed the 100k Yorkshire event in 25 hours.

Mr Cantwell said: “There’s so much that both Elaine and I have got out of our time with the charity. We arrange a local lunch club which is always well appreciated and allows all the blind veterans in the area to keep in touch.”

In addition, Mr and Mrs Cantwell represented the charity as ambassadors at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show where Blind Veterans UK had a gold medal-winning show garden.

In October, the couple was recognised for all their hard work raising money and awareness of the charity with a Blind Veterans UK One Team Award.

You can support the charity’s activity online at blindveterans.org.uk/helpjohnc

Blind Veterans UK is the national charity for blind and vision-impaired ex-Servicemen 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 who would be eligible to access its specialist support, most of whom are not currently aware of it.