Sunday, 14 April 2024
Sunday, 14 April 2024

Terminally-ill veteran jumping from plane at 8,000 feet for charity that ‘turned his life around’

A blind veteran from Somerset is determined to complete a tandem skydive to fundraise for Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, who he says turned his life around.

Mark Pile, who is 58 and from Peasedown St. John near Bath, is terminally-ill and wants to tick a parachute jump off his bucket list while he is still able.

Mark served in the Light Infantry between 1984 and 1993 as a bugler, a driver and a rifleman. During his nine years, he spent time in Germany and Gibraltar.

It was in 2000 that Mark first noticed there was a problem with his sight.

He said:

“I was working as a driver at the time and realised I couldn’t tell where the side of the road was. I went to the opticians and the hospital and discovered I had amblyopia, which is a hereditary eye condition that causes a breakdown in how the brain and the eye work together.

“From then my eyesight gradually deteriorated and in 2011 I was registered blind. At that stage, I had 15% sight remaining in one eye and nothing in the other. 

“I took the news of my diagnosis really badly and didn’t go out for ten years, I couldn’t see the point in living and was in a really dark place. I joined Blind Veterans UK in 2012 and that was the first time I reached out and accepted help.

“Even then I reluctantly visited the charity’s Centre of Wellbeing in Brighton for my introduction week, I was still blaming the world for my sight loss. 

“I credit the charity with saving my life, if it wasn’t for the fantastic support I’ve received I wouldn’t be here today. I can’t thank them enough.

“The charity helped me to realise there is life after sight loss. I began to accept blindness and the support I received from my peers and the staff was a huge thing for me and still is. You are never alone which is particularly important to me right now. 

“The charity offers rehabilitation and helps you to rekindle old hobbies and interests or discover new ones. With the encouragement of the staff at the Brighton Centre, I began to get more serious about photography and I got better and better.

“Along with a group of my fellow blind veterans, I helped to get the photography weeks up and running at the centres to pass on our experience to other veterans. I have helped to run these weeks and I have also photographed Blind Veterans UK events which has got me out and about. One of my fondest moments with the charity was photographing an event at the Tower of London, to be given that opportunity was such an honour.

“Staff at the charity also taught me to mount and frame my photographs and I now have a workshop in my garden.”

Mark has had a life-long ambition to complete a skydive and approached Blind Veterans UK to see if the charity could help make it happen. He has been given the green light and the big day is booked for 28 May.

He said:

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to do this. It’s wonderful that the charity is helping me at this stage in my life. I’m really excited about it. I won’t be able to judge the distance or see where I’m going but I will still get the same rush from the wind zooming past me.

“Giving back is important to me; helping with the photography weeks and events used to be my way of paying back to the charity that has helped me so much but I’m not able to do that anymore so this parachute jump is my way of saying thank you.

“I’ve been a member of Blind Veterans UK for 12 years; they gave me back my life when I was ready to throw in the towel and are supporting me right to the end to do things that I never thought I’d be able to do.

“I hope the parachute jump will raise money for Blind Veterans UK, to ensure the charity can continue to support other blind veterans like myself.”

If you would like to support Mark in reaching his £1,000 target for Blind Veterans UK, please visit his JustGiving page.

Blind Veterans UK supports thousands of blind veterans across the country but knows there are many thousands more who still need its support to rebuild their lives after sight loss.

If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces, including National Service, and are now struggling with sight loss, then please get in touch. Call 0800 389 7979 or visit: blindveterans.org.uk/support.

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