Byline: Kurt Bayer
IT was a proud moment for the battle-hardened men of one of Britain's most elite fighting units.
Around 400 Royal Marines of 45 Commando were yesterday awarded campaign medals to recognise their valiant service in war-torn Afghanistan.
But as they gathered at their Scottish base, the day was tinged with sadness as thoughts turned to the nine Marines who lost their lives during a gruelling six-month tour of duty in Helmand.
The soldiers of 45 Commando returned last month to RM Condor, their base on the outskirts of Arbroath, Angus.
Yesterday, more than 2,500 family members and friends gathered there for the medal ceremony. And they reserved their loudest cheers for the injured Marines, who attended in wheelchairs and on crutches.
Major General Garry Robison, Commandant General of 3 Commando Brigade, told those gathered at RM Condor's parade square: 'The lives of the people in the (Helmand) province are better for the time you gave them.
'You have written a new chapter of core history every bit as illustrious as that of your forebears.' Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Jim Morris praised the families and friends of the servicemen and women, telling them: 'You have been outstanding in your support - your letters and your parcels have kept coming and kept morale high.' Lt Col Morris told the Marines they should be 'proud' of their success in the fight against the Taliban. Improvements in security have allowed 11 schools to open, while health centres and local government offices have also started to function again.
He said: 'I believe the people in this commando (unit) have shown tremendous courage, professionalism and outstanding judgment. …