Blind veterans set to march to Cenotaph for Remembrance Sunday

Two blind veterans will join a march at the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday.

Peter Kay, 67, from Swindon, and Mark Pile, 59, from Somerset, will march at the Cenotaph as part of the national commemorations on 12 November.

They will be joined by more than 40 other blind veterans supported by charity Blind Veterans UK.

Mr Pile, who has a terminal cancer diagnosis, says it might be his last chance to march at the Cenotaph.

"I've been told I don't have long left so this will be the last time I get to stand beside my fellow blind veterans and I am determined I will be there," he said.

Mr Pile, who is from Peasedown St John, near Bath, served in the Light Infantry between 1984 and 1993 as a bugler, a driver and an infantryman.

During his nine years, he spent time in Germany and Gibraltar.

His eyesight began deteriorating in 2000 and by 2011, he was registered blind.

"I took the news really badly and didn't go out for 10 years," he said.

"I couldn't see the point in living and was in an incredibly dark place."

Last year, Mr Pile was diagnosed with cancer and started intensive treatment. But he was told in March there was no more that could be done.

He was supported by Blind Veterans UK to make his life-long ambition of completing a tandem skydive a reality, which has seen him already raise £3,000 for the charity via his fundraising page.

He will march with fellow blind veteran Peter Kay, who served the Territorial Army for 18 years with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers as a workshop manager.

During his service, Mr Kay was deployed alongside thousands of other military personnel for training exercises Operation Crusader in 1980 and Operation Lionheart in 1984.

He lost his sight just as the UK went into lockdown in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He was told by the optician he had cataracts in his left eye that would need to be operated on, but this would not happen quickly because of the pandemic.

"Within a week, I'd lost my sight completely and made the decision to go for private treatment which diagnosed optic nerve damage," said Mr Kay.

"I was black blind at first with no sight at all but fortunately, with medication, I got a little bit of my sight back."

Last year was his first experience of marching at the Cenotaph.

"I was incredibly proud to be alongside my fellow blind veterans," he said.

Blind Veterans UK chief executive Adrian Bell said: "At Remembrance, we commemorate the brave sacrifice of all those who lost their lives for their country.

"We also reflect on the huge challenges faced by veterans living with life-changing injuries from their time in service."

This year's Remembrance marks the 20th anniversary since the invasion of Iraq and 70 years since the end of the Korean War.

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