For Armed Forces Day, one veteran told Vodafone UK staffers about living with disability and life after the Armed Forces.
“I ploughed my Corsa into the back of a HGV… something was wrong. But in time-honoured fashion, I didn’t go to the medics about it. And then I woke up one morning and I couldn’t read.”
This is when Alan Lock, then a 24-year-old Royal Navy engineer eagerly anticipating his first-ever overseas deployment as part of the crew of nuclear submarine HMS Vengeance, discovered that he was losing his sight. Alan was diagnosed with macular degeneration, an eye condition that led to him being registered blind.
Alan was one of a series of speakers telling Vodafone UK staffers about their experiences, both in and out of uniform, for Armed Forces Day 2022.
Although Alan’s loss of eyesight wasn’t due to a battlefield injury, this didn’t make the loss of his eyesight any easier to bear: “It wasn’t a particularly heroic end to my career. That made it mentally really challenging because, you know, my career three years in and I hadn’t been deployed anywhere. It’s really tough, particularly for somebody who’s 24 and losing your eyesight.”
Alan’s turning point came when he met another ex-Forces member while getting therapy – a blind skier. Inspired by this example, as well as by charity Blind Veterans UK and the determination of other disabled veterans, he decided in 2009 to take on a challenge: to row across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to Barbados.
Along with a sighted navigator, Alan had to row 10 hours a day broken up into two-hour stretches of rowing followed by 20 minutes of rest. Some of their biggest worries weren’t about storms and waves, but energy – in more ways than one.