A FORMER Army Lance Corporal from Hartlepool will walk alongside other blind veterans at a prestigious Remembrance Sunday service in London that is attended by Royalty.
Charlie Eastwood will march to The Cenotaph, in London, representing Blind Veterans UK – the national charity for visually-impaired ex-service men and women.
The 55-year-old joined the Army’s Royal Signals in 1976, and went on to have a career spanning 23 years during which time Charlie was stationed in Germany, Cyprus, Caribbean and the UK.
In 1996 Charlie was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disease that causes blindness.
He was able to work in the Territorial Army for another three years as a teacher, before retiring in 1999.
He is passionate about Remembrance Sunday and also Blind Veterans UK who helped him during the difficult period post-discharge.
Charlie said: “I loved being in the Army. I was a driver electrician and was responsible for communications systems – anything from mobile generators to satellite communications to helicopters.
“I came to the end of my career and went from knowing what I was doing every day to a vast emptiness.
“I felt very isolated. I got a part-time job to fill the gap a little, but I felt unhappy being left to my own devices.”
Things started to change for Charlie when he began receiving support from Blind Veterans UK in 2007.
Charlie says: “The charity helped me re-establish a military ethos which I like and showed me what I am capable of.
“I started doing all kinds of different activities from crafts to skiing, and I also recently ran the Great North Run with my daughter Kirsty.”
He added: “I’m quite passionate about Remembrance as I want to show respect to the service personnel who have fought for us and lost their lives.
“It is wonderful to be amongst so many veterans of different ages and backgrounds.
“This will be the sixth time I’ll be part of Remembrance Sunday and I would describe the experience as poignant and solemn.
“It is an absolute honour to represent Blind Veterans UK and we wear our badges with pride.”
For further information on Blind Veterans UK www.noonealone.org.uk, or call (0800) 3897979, for further information.
l Paying tribute to fallen heroes: Page 10 and 11.