Blind veteran from Banbury will march at the Cenotaph in London this Remembrance Sunday
A blind veteran from Bodicote is set to march at the Cenotaph in London this Remembrance Sunday.
John Cantwell, 74, will be marching at the Cenotaph as part of the national Remembrance Sunday commemorations with more than 40 other blind veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.
He said: “I feel immensely proud to be marching once again and representing Blind Veterans UK. We have lost some local blind veterans who served in the Second World War over the last year and I will be thinking about them when I’m marching.”
John joined the Royal Air Force in 1970 where he was part of the Motor Transport Service Section. While with the RAF he was stationed at RAF St. Athan, RAF Lucas, RAF Old Sarum, RAF Salalah, Cyprus and Anguila. He met his wife Elaine while he was stationed in Cyprus where she was an RAF Nurse and he left the RAF in 1980.
He said: “I enjoyed my time in service and served in some marvellous places. Salalah sticks in my mind as it was in the middle of the desert, but I was serving with a great group of people and it taught me that it’s not about where you are but who you’re with and that has always stuck with me.”
John started to notice problems with his sight when he turned 45 and he found out that he had the genetic condition called Grönblad-Strandberg syndrome that creates scarring on any soft tissue including the eyes. John says: “It doesn’t hurt at all but the rupturing of vessels in the eyes does lead to the vision going slowly. I now have no central vision at all but I feel lucky to have had time to get used to it.”
Fortunately, he found out about Blind Veterans UK and started receiving support from the charity in 2010.
He added: “The best thing Blind Veterans UK gave me was, right from day one, making me realise that I’m not alone. I was surrounded and inspired by so many others who had gone on to do these amazing things with the support of this wonderful charity.
“I was given lots of simple bits of equipment like magnifiers that made a huge difference. I was also trained and given a computer that has made a massive difference to my independence.
“My wife and I started a local lunch club with other blind veterans about five years ago and we now have about 20 people who meet regularly which is fantastic to get people together who share these two commonalities of being vision impaired and having served in some way.”
“I recently went and spoke to a group of veterans in Oxfordshire about Blind Veterans UK and how there is a charity out there that can support them or people they know. The message is simple, please get in touch with Blind Veterans UK.”
Blind Veterans UK are available on 0800 389 7979 or visit blindveterans.org.uk/support