Sunday, August 23, 2009
Picture: L/Cpl Christopher Harkett's widow and father collected the Elizabeth Cross
Wales has welcomed back 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh after six months in Afghanistan.
Charlie Company paraded through Cardiff city centre after a tour which saw them involved in various missions.
Tributes were paid to L/Cpl Christopher Harkett, 22, of Pontardawe, who died after an explosion in Helmand.
His wife Danielle was presented with the Elizabeth Cross, given to the families of service personnel killed on operations or in acts of terrorism.
L/Cpl Harkett died after an explosion near Musa Qala on March 14, a month after the company was deployed.
He trained as a medic, a gunner and a signaller and the Army said he had had a bright future, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.
Campaign medals were presented to the soldiers by four Welsh members of the British and Irish Lions rugby union squad.
They were addressed by First Minister Rhodri Morgan, who said "words cannot convey the honour" of welcoming C-Company home after a period of intense fighting.
Crowds lined the streets as 131 members of the company marched from City Hall with a regimental band and colours flying.
Hundreds more inside Cardiff castle, including friends, relatives and former service people, cheered when they entered the grounds.
The march follows one by the 1st Queen's Dragoon Guards, who paraded through Cardiff on their 50th anniversary at the end of July.
C-Company, which is is based in Lucknow Barracks, Tidworth, Wiltshire, but recruits from the whole of Wales, and it helped secure territory ahead of this week's elections.
Major Nigel Crewe-Read, officer commanding C-Company, said: "I think the overriding feeling we've had is success and not without sacrifices and L/Cpl Christopher Harkett and his family are at the forefront of our minds.
"We've defeated the Taliban whenever we've come across them and then seen the Afghan population get back up and running, re-establish schools, have power supplies, and we've ensured the Afghan security forces take ownership of the situation.
"We can reflect on a job well done."
Mr Morgan said the people of Wales should be proud of C-Company's "great courage and determination".
"While we celebrate their homecoming and safe return to their families and friends we should remember those who have lost their lives in the conflict," he said.
"We will remember, in particular L/Cpl Christopher Harkett, who should be marching through the streets of Cardiff with his comrades and our thoughts are with his family."