Sunday, May 17, 2009
Last month the last remaining Royal Marines from 45 Commando returned from a bloody, shattering tour of Helmand Province in Afghanistan.
The 1,000 strong plus men and women of Lieutenant Colonel Jim Morris's battlegroup are now enjoying well-earned leave, back with their families and attempting to adjust to a very different environment from the one they have just left.
We met these extraordinarily brave troops during a two-week embed in and around Sangin where they faced almost daily battles with the Taliban.
On our final patrol with the men of X-Ray Company the Marines lost three men in a single instant.
A 13-year-old suicide bomber detonated a wheel-barrow full of explosives into the company's Quick Reaction Force. Less than a few kilometres away another Marine died when his vehicle hit a Taliban mine.
During six months the Taliban planted over 300 hidden bombs to a vain bid to stop 45 Commando from being security to this violent area of Helmand. Lt Col Morris lost 12 from his battlegroup.
Without the sheer professionalism, guts and determination of the Marines painstakingly probing in front of them for booby traps while on deadly patrols that figure would have been far higher.
Sadly you will have seen the smiling, bluff faces of the servicemen killed in Afghanistan over the last six months, appearing in our newspapers and on television.
What you will rarely see is the faces of the injured.
52 were left with serious injuries from 45 Commando battlegroup. Perhaps it says enough about the Marines that before the end of their tour 17 had insisted on returning to frontline duty after making full recoveries.
Now a group are doing something to ensure their injured comrades get as much support as possible.
We met Lance Corporal Phil Maxwell at Forward Operating Base Nolay just before that fateful patrol back in December.
Thankfully Phil is back now and in one piece. But in true Commando spirit he and 11 others from X-Ray Company are going to run the Edinburgh marathon to raise money for the those comrades less fortunate themselves.
They will carry a model (well they are Marines) on a stretcher the whole 26.2 miles on May 31.
In doing so they will remind us that there is cost to going to war and one not to be forgotten.
We urge you to support them - and you can do so by sponsoring them here.
They are some of the best of Britain. Let's salute them.