Blind Veterans UK helps former Royal Marine with severe sight loss retain his
A Royal Marines veteran from Milton Keynes has spoken of the incredible support he has received from
national military charity Blind Veterans UK since he began losing his eyesight seven years ago.
73-year-old Sam Jelbert spent 21 years in the Royal Marines from 1961, serving for 14 years in the regular Marines and seven years in the Royal Marines Reserves. He joined up just after he turned 18.
Having joined the Sea Cadets as a child, Sam and his brother both developed a passion for the ocean. Most of the boys they grew up with joined the Armed Forces, so they both decided to join the Royal Marines. Sam also came from a military background. His father had been in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and had died when he was just two years old.
Sam underwent a year’s intensive training in the UK after he joined the Royal Marines. He said: “I
travelled outside of Cornwall for the first time ever when I went to Deal in Kent for the first phase of my training! That training was followed by amphibious warfare training and further training at The Commando School in Devon. The process was gruelling and only 26 of us passed, but we were very
proud to wear the green beret.”
Following his training in the UK, Sam was posted overseas to Singapore for 18 months with 42 Commando. This was followed by tours in Malaya, Brunei, Borneo, the Falklands Islands and Cyprus as well as Yemen.
It was whilst serving aboard HMS Eskimo, the Tribal-class frigate of the Royal Navy, that Sam got the
opportunity to become a diver. He was the only one on the ship diving course he was on to pass. His duties then included searching the ships hulls in the waters off of the coast of Yemen. It was a role he relished despite the obvious dangers, including those posed by sharks.
Following his service in the Royal Marines, Sam continued diving as it was something he had developed a passion for following his time in as a Marine. He also moved to Milton Keynes to work in engineering and construction.
Unfortunately, seven years ago, not long after he’d retired, Sam started experiencing issues with his
sight. He began to find everyday tasks such as reading and writing difficult, even when wearing glasses.
Struggling, he went to Specsavers and following tests, Sam was told he had age-related macular
degeneration. The eye condition has resulted in him losing all useful vision. Fortunately, his optician from Specsavers in Milton Keynes helped Sam get in touch with Blind Veterans UK.
Sam said: “I am thankful that I found Blind Veterans UK. Their support has helped me learn to live with my sight loss and allowed me to reconnect with the world. They’ve brought me out of my shell.
“Through Blind Veterans UK I have had the chance to try new activities, including playing bowls, archery and acoustic rifle shooting, which is a form of shooting adapted for the vision-impaired. I think it is a fantastic organisation.”
Sam has also benefited from the social opportunities the charity provides and from being provided with
equipment. He attends an annual reunion event in St. Albans where he meets other veterans. Sam has also had the chance to meet many other veterans living with severe sight loss at Blind Veterans UK’s Brighton centre when he has gone for holidays and training. He is now looking forward to a holiday in early 2016 at the charity’s centre in Llandudno, North Wales.
Sam has also been provided with white cane training by Blind Veterans UK. The training makes it easier for him to get about during the day and means he can continue living independently in a retirement village. His talking microwave and magnifier, both provided by Blind Veterans UK, also make his life easier.
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 has three training centres in Brighton, Sheffield and Llandudno, North Wales and a network of welfare officers around
If you are, or know of, a blind and vision impaired ex-Service man or woman who, like Sam, is now
battling severe sight loss, call 0800 389 7979 or go to www.noonealone.org.uk now to find out how Blind Veterans UK could help.
For all media enquiries please contact:
Marketing and Communications Assistant
Blind Veterans UK
12 - 14 Harcourt Street
London W1H 4HD
T: 020 7616 7931