Blind US veterans visit Brighton's St Dunstan's centre

A group of blind US veterans has visited a Brighton rehabilitation and training centre as part of an exchange programme.

The St Dunstan's centre works with serving and retired military personnel who have lost their sight due to conflict, age or illness.

The group was shown techniques and equipment that are used there to give blind veterans greater independence.

The six visiting veterans are from the Blinded Veterans Association USA.

Their visit to St Dunstan's is during a week-long trip organised by the charity which runs the centre, long before President Barack Obama's state visit was announced.

Ray Hazan, president of St Dunstan's, said: "The visit extends the co-operation between our two nations, both on the battlefield and its subsequent consequences.

"Throughout its 96-year existence, St Dunstan's has advised and encouraged other similar war blind organisations."

While Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama met service personnel at a barbeque in the garden at 10 Downing Street, the US veterans shared ideas, experiences and friendships with their UK counterparts who have served in conflicts over the past 70 years.

The trip is part of an exchange programme called Project Gemini, named after a submarine communications cable that links the UK and the US.

All the visiting American veterans suffered sight loss while serving in either Iraq or Afghanistan except for Blinded Veterans Association USA President Dr Roy Kekahuna, a former Special Forces Major, who lost his sight while serving in the Vietnam War.

Tom Zampieri from the Blinded Veterans Association USA (BVA) said: "Like St Dunstan's, the BVA have striven over decades to help each generation of visually impaired veterans.

"We have come over to learn from each other and strengthen the bonds that we share as veterans."

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