David Tutt, 76, will be standing on his doorstep, alongside his neighbours, at 11am on Sunday, and will later have the opportunity to get together with other blind veterans at ‘listen and join in’ virtual parties.
He had been due to march at The Cenotaph as part of the national Remembrance Sunday commemorations with more than 100 other men and women supported by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-service men and women.
David joined the London Rifle Brigade as part of the Territorial Army in 1962 and served as a Rifleman until 1967.
He said: “I absolutely loved my time in the Army. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. I only left to join the Merchant Navy but unfortunately failed the medical because I’m deaf.”
David lost his sight due to macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of sight loss in the UK.
“I first started to notice funny things with my eyes about five years ago,” he explained. “I went to the opticians and they sent me straight to the hospital, where I was told that I was losing my sight.
“It started out as a very slow process and initially I thought it was only in one eye but it then started to go in both eyes very quickly.
“I was absolutely gutted when I heard I was losing my sight. In the Rifles, I was a really good shot and, being deaf, my eyesight was even more important. I realised myself that I had to stop driving straight away and that has meant that we don’t get to go and visit the children as much as we used to.”
David started receiving support from Blind Veterans UK in April 2018 and says he could not praise them highly enough.
“The kindness they have shown to me and my wife has been amazing. My wife recently wrote to Prince Harry to say how brilliant they have been,” he said.
“I went for an intro week where you learn about all the different things you can do and then went back again for a week of IT training, learning how to use my adaptive tablet. That tablet they have given me has been great. I was not really an IT person before but now I’m using it for all sorts.
“There’s a social side to the charity which is really important, too. During normal times a group of blind veterans in Worthing meet up for coffee every month.”
David says the biggest change the charity has made to his life has been giving him his confidence back.
“It’s been a kick up the backside at just the right time to realise that I just need to get on and live my life the best I can.
“Even during lockdown they’ve been calling me regularly to see if we were fine and had everything we needed. Luckily we’re generally doing okay but I know they are supporting lots of other blind veterans facing a more challenging pandemic experience.”
The ‘listen and join in’ parties will help keep isolated blind veterans connected at such an important time.
David said: “Remembrance means an awful lot to me. We have to recognise what these people selflessly went through for us. I will be remembering all those members of the armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“Although I’m not able to get to the Centotaph this year, I’m looking forward to standing alongside my neighbours on our doorsteps in remembrance.”
Blind Veterans UK was founded to support people blinded in the First World War and now supports all affected veterans, regardless of when they served or how they lost their sight.
Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin, chief executive, said: “This year will be a Remembrance like no other and it’s such a shame that veterans like David won’t be marching proudly at the Cenotaph.
“More than 90 per cent of the blind veterans we support are over 70 and so most at risk from Covid-19.
“Our immediate concerns continue to be working quickly to help those who are most vulnerable - whether they need food delivered, medication from their pharmacy or a friendly voice over the phone.
“The isolation caused by Covid and experienced by our blind veterans can be just as harmful as the virus itself. That’s why we will be doing all we can to ensure they remain connected to each other and the outside world through the Remembrance period and beyond.”
Visit blindveterans.org.uk to learn more about the charity and how you can support its vital work today.
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