A blind veteran from Stone is set to march to the Cenotaph in London this Remembrance Sunday (13/11) with the charity Blind Veterans UK.
Carol Sadler, 68, will be marching with more than 100 other blind veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.
“I am so happy to be part of Blind Veterans UK and to be able to march with other veterans. I went to the Cenotaph last year and I was absolutely awed by it all. I was surprised by how many people came to watch us and I feel honoured to be able to do it again.”
In 1965, when Carol was just 17, she joined the Women’s Royal Air Force. She trained at RAF Spitalgate and worked as a supplier, looking after aircraft deliveries.
“Joining the RAF was something I had always wanted to do. I was originally part of the Royal Observer Corps and through them I was able to go to air shows, which is where my interest in aircraft began. I come from a Navy family so when I joined the RAF they were a bit surprised that I did not follow the family tradition!”
Carol was stationed around the UK at RAF Coltishall and RAF High Wycombe. She met her husband, Alan, in the Service and was discharged in 1969 when they married.
“I made a lot of friends when I was in the RAF. The Service brings you all together and gives you so many opportunities. Friendships in civilian life are just not the same and the camaraderie of the RAF is what I miss the most.”
It was years later in 2006 that Carol started to lose her sight to macular degeneration.
“My sight loss happened really suddenly. I got into the car to drive home and then something strange happened to my right eye. I thought I just had a migraine but when I went to the opticians they saw what the problem was straight away.”
After losing vision in the right eye, Carol’s left eye also started to deteriorate. At the time Carol was working as an occupational health advisor, which required a lot of driving. All of a sudden she had to give up the job she loved because she could not drive.
Carol (middle) at Horse Guards
“Sight is so important and losing it changes everything. I always thought of myself as a confident person but the disability was very isolating. I felt like I was no longer in control of anything.”
Fortunately Carol was signposted to Blind Veterans UK by her local blind association and she has been receiving support from the charity since 2011.
“I was in a downward spiral when Blind Veterans UK came along and I feel so grateful to have their support. The charity gave me the opportunity to meet people in the same position as me and who knew how I felt. Just speaking to them and to the staff made me feel like I could be myself again.”
Carol has received specialist computer equipment from Blind Veterans UK and she has taken part in an IT training course. Through the charity she has tried lots of activities such as white water rafting and she has discovered a love of tandem cycling.
When Carol had a stroke last year, she spent an intensive week at the Blind Veterans UK training and rehabilitation centre in Llandudno. There she worked hard with the staff in the gym to restore her limbs back to the level of mobility she had before.
“Blind Veterans UK has given me the opportunity to do so much more than I ever thought I would be able to do since losing my sight. The activities I’ve tried through them have made a huge difference and when I had my stroke they gave me the one-to-one attention I needed.
“I just had a week of cycling at their Llandudno centre and I loved it so much. Sight loss makes you feel like an outsider looking in but Blind Veterans UK have made me feel like I can do anything.”
Carol 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.
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.
“I got a lump in my throat as I marched to the Cenotaph last year with Blind Veterans UK. To be able to go again, when it is the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, will be such a special experience. I’ve been to the WWI battlefields because I wanted to learn more about what it was like for the men. Remembering and celebrating their lives is so important.”
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 www.noonealone.org.uk