West Sussex blind veteran to march on Remembrance Sunday with Blind Veterans UK
A blind veteran from West Sussex is set to march at the Cenotaph in London this Remembrance Sunday (13/11) with the charity Blind Veterans UK.
John Gasston, 78 and from Worthing, previously served in the Territorial Army in Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe, and lost his eyesight in service.
John will be marching to 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.
John was living in South Africa when he was called up to join National Service aged 24 in 1962. He signed up with the Royal Rhodesia Regiment as a foot soldier to complete his National Service in Zimbabwe for four and a half months.
After National Service John went on to train as a signaller and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in the Territorial Army as a Regimental Signals Instructor. He remained in the Territorial Army until 1975. During this time he was promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant, and was posted to an infantry company as a Platoon Commander.
In 1975, when John was working as a Platoon Commander, a hand grenade exploded next to him and his eyes were severely damaged. His lost the sight in his left eye entirely and suffered vision-impairment in his right eye. Due to his deteriorating sight loss and lack of medical care, John returned to England in 1989.
In 1991 John went to stay at an RNIB rehabilitation centre. When a member of RNIB’s staff learnt about John’s Army career they encouraged him to get in touch with Blind Veterans UK.
John says, “Blind Veterans UK were a great help. The first major thing they did for me was to find me accommodation. They provided me with a bungalow and set me up with a mortgage, I am eternally grateful.”
John also enjoyed the training courses offered by Blind Veterans UK, and learnt engraving and picture framing.
John is set to march 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 13 November 2016.
John has attended the Remembrance ceremony on eight previous occasions and is pleased to be representing Blind Veterans UK again this year.
He says, “I’ve lost a lot of friends in conflict and it’s important that we remember them and show up in as large numbers as possible to celebrate their lives and remember our losses.”
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 says: “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.