A former Army Officer from Seaford who was blinded by an IRA bomb will be heading the contingent of veterans from charity Blind Veterans UK on the Remembrance Sunday march in London.
Ray Hazan OBE, 69, from Seaford, will take part in the annual commemorations at the Cenotaph with Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision impaired ex-service men and women on November 9.
Ray was on his second tour of duty in Northern Ireland with the Royal Anglian Regiment in 1973 when an IRA parcel bomb exploded in his hands.
He was totally blinded, and also suffered severe hearing loss and lost his right hand. A fellow officer was killed in the blast.
Ray said: “After the blast, my world came to a grinding halt, the sense of loss was like a bereavement. The thought that I would never read, kick a football, or see my children, my wife was four months pregnant when it happened, was an extreme blow and I felt almost paralysed with shock. When I lost my sight I felt helpless. I was unable to do many of the everyday things I had taken for granted.”
As an ex-service man Ray was eligible for free help and support from Blind Veterans UK, formerly St Dunstan’s, which provides a lifetime of care for veterans with sight loss regardless of when and where they served, or how they lost their sight.
Ray said: “I still remember my first day at Blind Veterans UK when I heard the chatter and laughter of other members. The positive attitude of people I met made me realise that blindness was not so bad and that I too could go on to lead a fulfilling life just as they had.”
Ray went on to join Blind Veterans UK as a member of staff in 1977, and was elected president in 2004. He worked in the PR and welfare departments, and was also editor of the charity’s monthly in-house magazine Review. Ray retired in 2011 but is still the charity’s president. He was awarded an OBE in 2012 for his services to Blind Veterans UK and the blind community.
Ray said: “Remembrance gives me the chance to pay my respects to my friend who died in the same incident that left me blind.
“This year, especially as Blind Veterans UK approaches its centenary, we remember all those blind veterans who went before us and who gave us an example of hope and achievement to follow.”
Blind Veterans UK’s campaign No One Alone aims to reach out to more veterans like Ray.
More than 68,000 other veterans could be eligible for free help and support without realising it.
If you know someone who served in the Armed Forces or National Service who now suffers with sight loss for any reason visit www.noonealone.org.uk or call 0800 389 7979.
For more information about Blind Veterans UK’s visit www.blindveterans.org.uk