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Smiles lining the streets for our returning heroes
Buy this photo » The Princess Royal at the 3 Logistic Corps Support Regiment medal ceremony at Dalton Barracks, Abingdon, yesterday Pictures: OX62898 Damian Halliwell
HUNDREDS of family and friends lined the streets of Abingdon to officially welcome back 300 soldiers from Afghanistan yesterday.
The Princess Royal presented 180 of them with personalised medals for completing their first tour of duty in Afghanistan.
But, as part of the British withdrawal from the wartorn country, this may be the last time that 3 Logistic Support Regiment (LSR), is welcomed home to Dalton Barracks.
Soldiers paraded along Ock Street to Abingdon Market Place at 9.30am.
In the market square, Abingdon Mayor Samantha Bowring said the troops’ hard work and dedication was “admired and appreciated by everyone in Abingdon”.
She said: “This parade is a chance to thank you for the vital work you have been doing.”
In 2006, the soldiers of Dalton Barracks were granted the freedom of the town.
Ms Bowring said she was very pleased to see them exercising their right to “march through the town with bayonets fixed and colours flying”.
She also said that, in the run-up to Remembrance Day, “we sincerely hope that the families of those who have died find peace, and we think of those of you who have been affected by the loss of comrades.”
She concluded: “It is an absolute honour to welcome you back.”
The regiment’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Asbee, thanked the town for its “wonderful reception”.
He said: “This parade is very important to my soldiers and officers.”
Between March and September this year, the three squadrons of 3 LSR have been taking part in Herrick 18, the British operation in Afghanistan.
Part of the regiment’s role was to deliver essential equipment and supplies to frontline troops, but increasingly, as part of the withdrawal, to retrieve equipment and return it to Camp Bastion ready to be returned to the UK.
At Dalton Barracks, Princess Anne presented soldiers with their operational medals, each one engraved with the soldier’s name.
She praised the strength of the whole regiment, and the support and commitment of their families.
The regiment’s chaplain Giles Adams also praised the troops.
After the day’s parades and hours of standing in the cold, soldiers were then treated to a fun fair at Dalton Barracks to enjoy with their families.
MEET THE SOLDIERS
Major Ben Adams, 36, right, originally from Grimsby, officer commanding of 31 Close Support Squadron.
Maj Adams has been on many tours of duty before, but this was his first as a father-of-two.
When he left in March he said goodbye not only to wife Philippa but also his sons George, three, and 10-month-old Henry.
He said: “It was difficult for them. It is always much harder for families than it is for us.
“We go with our colleagues and we know exactly what we are doing – whereas with families, half of them are uprooted anyway, then they have to take on all the routine jobs that we would normally be doing at home.
“For six months of my son’s life, I have been in Afghanistan.
“It is fantastic to be back.”
He also said it was “great” to see how many people turned out to watch the parade through Abingdon.
Private Kerryanne Aaron, originally from Stockton-on-Tees.
Pt Aaron returned in September from her first tour of duty.
Her dad Keith Aaron said her coming home was like “Christmas times three”.
Her mum Susan, dad, and sisters Chelsea and Alicia travelled from Teesside to watch the parade yesterday.
Mr Aaron said that when she was away it was “horrendous”.
He said: “The apprehension, being afraid to put on the news, it was horrendous. But I know that Kerryanne loves what she does. “It wasn’t a nice feeling but it is brilliant to have her back. It is like Christmas times three.”
While she was out on operations, talking to her family back home could only happen occasionally.
Pt Aaron said: “It is amazing to be back. We had a brilliant welcome home last month, and another brilliant welcome home today.”
Lance Corporal Kent Stevenson Radford, 30, originally from Salisbury
L Cpl Stevenson has been to Afghanistan before, but said it was “much better” coming home the second time.
This time, he returned home to his two sons, Alfie, four, and one-year-old Archie.
He also returned to mum Wendy Diamond, 55, who now lives in Gloucestershire, and is no stranger to having relatives in the Army.
Her father and husband were both in the military.
She said: “It is always worrying, but it is just a case of getting on with your everyday life.
“When you hear about it on the news, it is not nice for anyone to go to war, but it is something that you grow up to.
“They join up hoping they will never have to go to war but in the last few years we have had to.”
Private Ben Briard, 24, originally from Yorkshire.
Pt Briard said his first tour of duty was more difficult than he expected.
He said: “It was a long, hard tour, not what I expected.
“I thought it would be a lot more easy.”
He was welcomed home
yesterday by his mum Lindsey Briard-Finch, 48, who travelled from Ireland.
She said: “You worry a lot.
“Where we are living at the moment, we don’t have a good internet connection, so you think about it every night. It keeps you awake.
“You are just waiting for that phone call.
“But when he enlisted, the first thing they said was that he would have to go to Afghanistan.”
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