Updated: Wednesday, 26th June 2019 @ 11:40am

Victory over Blindness: MM interview Iraq veteran Craig Lundberg

Victory over Blindness: MM interview Iraq veteran Craig Lundberg

| By Cachella Smith

Craig Lundberg joined the army at 16, was deployed at 21, and blind by 22.

Hit by two rocket-propelled grenades during a routine operation in Iraq 2009, Craig suffered from serious burns and ended up completely blind.

In spite of his condition, he has since obtained a full-time job as an estate agent as well as having a family of three (including a tiny one of just five months).

MM met Craig at the unveiling of the Victory over Blindness memorial at Manchester Piccadilly Station, writes Cachella Smith.

Having been introduced to him by Nick Caplin, CEO of Blind Veterans UK, as an "incredibly inspirational man", I was keen to discover his story... 

Despite having been in the middle of his own conversation, Craig seemed more than happy to sit down, shake my hand, and let me ask away.

I began with the phrase that Nick had just used to introduce him. He didn’t say a word, but it was clear that this was a title he didn’t consider himself worthy of.

I smiled and asked myself how someone who, at 30 years old, has succeeded in overcoming complete blindness to hold down a full-time career, as well as support a family could consider themselves to be anything but inspirational.

A recurring theme of the day was the fact that this is the first permanent war memorial in the UK to depict a disabled service man. Craig ventures an explanation for me.

“Nobody wants to see that side. All we want are heroes.”

He then revises his statement and tells me that “this is how it should be”, that the men who fought were brave and “heroes.”

At the same time however, for him this is a “tiny step in the right direction.”

WW1 TEXTBOOK

I then wanted to address the little anecdote that Nick had given me earlier, asking him about his immediate instinct to go over and touch the statue that morning.

He tells me that he remembers seeing a similar picture in a World War One textbook back at school. 15 years had passed since he had seen that image, but it had returned to him vividly when he heard about the statue. 

The fact that a statue is tactile enables accessibility for the visually-impaired. By feeling the statue, Craig was able to reconcile the image he held in his head with reality.

He describes being “surprised” that the statue was exactly at street level, when he had expected a small platform at least. It was clear that the care taken to ensure accessibility meant a lot to him.

He has a lot to say on the image of the statue itself, drawing my attention specifically to the guy at the front. The statue for him depicts a clear sense of unity.

“They’re in it together, just as we’re in it together.”

He draws my attention to the leader, explaining “without him they are stuck.”

Then he suggests that they probably needed that camaraderie more then, than when they were going over the top.

He likens this image to his own situation, and returns back to the idea that he is not inspirational, or at least, that he cannot be considered inspirational on his own.

He tells me he is living life, but he can only do so because of the great people around him.

“It’s a group effort, just like the statue.”

80-YEAR-OLD VETERAN

I ask him about this group he talks about, and more specifically his children. He admits that being a parent brings challenges.

In a poignant anecdote he references his son’s football matches. Where the other Dads can cheer their sons on and celebrate when they score a goal, he has to wait for his child to finish before having to ask his son “How did the game go today?”

He says that certainly there is a lot taken away, but that the kids gain a lot as well.

“I appreciate the little things, like for instance walking my son to school,” he smiles.

When talking about the charity himself, he tells me that he doesn’t like asking for help, although I think I had already worked this out for myself.

Yet for him, the most important thing he gained through the charity was meeting another veteran.

When he was just two months blind, he met an 80-year-old veteran through the charity.

Craig tells me this meeting was something that really struck him, as this man had got through it, had a family, and achieved so much without all the support and help that is available today. That was when he realised there was no excuse.

As this man was walking away, he asked him where he was going. The response was “to learn to send emails” he said.

“I live in a sighted world,” Craig adds. “I need to get amongst a sighted world.”

Craig is also doing a Blind Tandem Challenge in June 2019, you can support him here;

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=BlindTandemChallenge&pageUrl=1&isTeam=true