Monday, April 27, 2009

Troops 'overwhelmed' by welcome home

HUNDREDS of people celebrated the return of 600 troops from Afghanistan yesterday as they proudly paraded through their home town.

The troops received a rapturous reception from crowds lining the streets of Barnstaple.

The personnel from the Commando Logistic Regiment who completed a six-month tour in Helmand province said they were "overwhelmed" and "moved" by the welcome they received.
After the parade, the regiment returned to barracks at nearby Chivenor to receive medals in the presence of the Second Sea Lord and Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command, Vice Admiral Alan Massey CBE ADC.

Lieutenant Andy Cheal, regiment spokesman, said: "There were far more people than we expected – the streets were packed. Every single member of the regiment was overwhelmed by the turnout we saw today.

"Speaking to the lads after we finished, they said they were quite moved by it."
At the medal ceremony, two empty spaces were left on the parade ground for Corporal Rob Deering and Marine Damian Davies who were killed on front-line operations.
It was a poignant reminder of the sacrifices and courage of front-line troops in Afghanistan.

Cpl Deering was killed on December 21 after he went to the aid of comrades when a roadside explosion left them stranded in their personnel carrier. The 33-year-old died in a second blast as he approached the vehicle to help in Lashkar Gah.

More than 600 people gathered at his funeral at St Giles Church in his home town of Sheldon, Birmingham, to pay tribute to the man they described as "lion-hearted".
The medals ceremony was also tinged with sorrow for Royal Marine Damian Davies, a 27- year-old father from Telford, Shropshire, who was killed in a suspected suicide blast on December 12. Mne Davies, a member of the Landing Force Support Party, Commando Logistic Regiment, died after an explosion south of Sangin.

Lt Cheal said: "It is so important for everyone – family, friends, colleagues and even people who didn't know our fallen comrades – to really understand that Rob and Damo will never be forgotten. This parade is as much about honouring them as everyone else."

Commanding Officer Colonel Andy Maynard said they were delighted to be home and reunited with loved ones.

He said: "Mindful of what the tour has achieved, but also the price we have paid, the parade is our chance to celebrate our successes and remember those who were a key part of our accomplishments and who are no longer with us."
The parade was the latest of several held across the Westcountry to welcome home troops.

Thousands turned out to pay tribute to 300 from 24 Commando Engineer Regiment in Braunton, North Devon, on April 8.

The people of Plymouth also turned out in force on April 22 to welcome back the city's 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery.

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