A couple in their 80s from the Vale of Glamorgan are looking forward to celebrating their relationship this Valentine’s Day after finding love through national military charity Blind Veterans UK.
Bob Hicks, 88 and from Barry, met Tina Morgan, 90 and from Dinas Powys, at a lunch held by Blind Veterans UK. Both Bob and Tina have been widowed and received free specialist support from the charity.
Bob says: “When I met Tina at the Blind Veterans UK lunch we really hit it off. Within a month of meeting I invited her to come on holiday with me because I was nervous about going on my own and she ended up saying yes. Since then, we’ve travelled all over the world together. It’s amazing that we get on so well.”
Bob served in the Royal Air Force for his National Service from 1947. Bob completed his training at RAF Bawdsey in Suffolk and then served in the Air Traffic Control unit in Gloucester. He was discharged two years later in 1949 as an Aircraftman.
Bob said: “My job in the RAF was to prevent all radio signals from being intercepted. It was very interesting work and I enjoyed it a lot. I met my wife in the RAF and I remember those days as some of the happiest ones of my life.”
It was years later that Bob’s sight started to deteriorate because of a genetic disease called macular dystrophy. He was registered sight-impaired in 2011.
Bob says: “My sight loss was gradual and I didn’t notice it at first. It seemed to go through cycles of degenerating, stabilising for a while and then degenerating again. It was very disruptive and eventually I had to give up my job.”
Fortunately, Bob met another veteran who was being supported by Blind Veterans UK, who encouraged him to contact the charity. He started to receive free specialist support from the charity in 2015.
Bob said: “Blind Veterans UK has been very good to me. They’ve given me some brilliant equipment to help me with my sight loss. I have a reading aid that means that I can blow up type to a much larger size. It’s given me a bit of independence again because now I can read my own letters.”
Tina has been in contact with Blind Veterans UK for many years, as her late veteran husband John had also been supported after he lost his sight. When John passed away in 2003, Tina continued to receive support from the charity and attend its social events.
Tina said: “Before Blind Veterans UK came into our lives John used to be too nervous to leave the house. But through the charity, John met other blind veterans who were in the same boat as him and he came out of his shell. The help for John was simply wonderful.”
When Bob was at his first ever Blind Veterans UK lunch club in 2010 he was introduced to Tina and they discovered they had lots to talk about.
Bob says: “I was a bit uncertain about going to the lunch club but I had lots of fun chatting to Tina. From then on we have been inseparable and gone on one holiday after another. We’ve been all over Europe and even to Thailand and Singapore. It’s been quite the adventure.”
Tina says: “People don’t know how marvellous Blind Veterans UK is. I want to spread the word because everyone should know. I feel that Bob looks after me more than I look after him. I’m so grateful that we have met because we always have a marvellous time together. We are very lucky.”
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 estimates that there could be as many as 170 blind veterans in the Vale of Glamorgan who would be eligible to access its specialist support, most of whom are not currently aware of it.
If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces or did National Service and is now battling severe sight loss, find out how Blind Veterans UK could help by calling 0800 389 7979 or visiting noonealone.org.uk.
Find out more at: www.blindveterans.org.uk, and follow us on Facebook at: facebook.com/blindveteransuk and on Twitter at: twitter.com/blindveterans.