Wednesday, October 28, 2009

'Bittersweet homecoming': Mixed emotions for troops back from Afghanistan

Seven-month-old Jaden and mum Carol welcomed back Fusilier Jonny Rodgers

Cheers and tears of joy greeted soldiers as they returned from Afghanistan into the arms of loved ones.

A Company, The Second Battalion The Royal Regiment Of Fusiliers (2 RRF) arrived home at their Hounslow barracks yesterday after a gruelling six-month tour of the country’s Helmand province, during which the unit lost seven soldiers.

Applause erupted from their Beavers Lane headquarters when two coachloads of homecoming troops were spotted by family and friends, who decorated the camp with bunting and ribbons and waved Union Jack flags.

Fus Steve McCowliff said: “It’s actually quite a daunting experience.

“It’s quite intimidating coming through the gates but it’s unbelievable coming back and seeing the family.

“I’m not normally emotional but the tears were starting to flow.”

He was reunited with daughter Lexie, two, and wife Alison, who added: “I cannot describe it, just seeing him was everything I wanted for the last six months.”

Company commander, Major Jo Butterfill, said: “It’s fantastic to be honest but it’s a bit bittersweet.

“It’s been a long seven months - more like a year with the training.

“We’ve not brought some people home with us who we went with and we all bare in mind the families who are not here.

“But the boys have done incredibly well and I’m proud of all of them.”

Maj Butterfill, dad to three-year-old Tabitha and 18-month-old Archie, added: “I’ve been away for over a quarter of my son's life now.

“When I was deployed Archie could not talk and now I’ve just had a conversation with him.”

A spokesman for 2 RRF said their prayers remained with the families of the seven soldiers who died during the tour.

They were: Fus Petero "Pat" Suesue, 28, from Fiji; Corporal Joseph Etchells, 22, from Mossley, Greater Manchester; Sergeant Simon Valentine, 29, from Bedworth, Warwickshire; Fus Simon Annis, 22, from Salford; Fus Louis Carter, 18, from Nuneaton, Warwickshire; Lance Corporal James Fullarton, 24, from Coventry; and Fus Shaun Bush, 24, from Coventry.

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