Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Warm Welcome for Our Heroes; Proud Families Reunited with Loved Ones

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Warm Welcome for Our Heroes; Proud Families Reunited with Loved Ones

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Tully ? 07554 437755 ? paul.tully@ncjmedia.co.uk

PROUD families welcomed home their loved ones returning from duty in Afghanistan in emotional scenes yesterday. The soldiers returning from duty in Afghanistan told of the improving situation in the strife-torn country.

The once-ferocious Helmand Province is now much more peaceful, according the men of the Royal Artillery's 176 (Abu Klea) Battery.

The 72 officers and soldiers ended a six-month tour of duty by flying home to a medal parade at Albemarle Barracks in Northumberland.

Their families also turned out in force to welcome them home for the start of five weeks' leave.

There were emotional scenes in the army camp as the men hugged their wives and children.

Lance Bombardier Mark Forth, 25, of Hazlerigg, North Tyneside, was reunited with wife Gemma and sons Jack, five, and Blake, two.

He said: "This was my third tour in Afghanistan following 2008 and 2010, and Helmand was certainly a lot quieter this time. We were working with the Americans and giving front-line support.

"Now it's great to be home again with the family for the next five weeks."

Gemma said: "It's really good to have Mark back home ... now I can make sure he does his share of helping with the kids!" Bombardier Raymond Hartley, 34, of Blyth, returned from his third tour with a big hug for children Sharna, 15, Cameron, 12, and nine-year-old Natasha.

"It was certainly a lot better out there than in 2007 and 2009," he said.

"Now I can look forward to a few weeks off and some Christmas leave after that."

Lieutenant Jagjit Marwaha, of Berkshire, said: "It's more about handing over to the Afghans now. "But we are on call 24-7, on standby every minute of the day." Presenting the campaign medals, 1st Artillery Brigade Commander Colonel Mark Thornhill said: "Today we recognise those who have served with the utmost dedication, skill and courage in Afghanistan in the past six months. …

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