MORE than 100 soldiers who have served in Afghanistan proudly paraded with their medals at Thorney Island yesterday (November 13), and for many, it was the first time they had seen their family.
Members of 21 (Gibraltar 1779-83) Battery, part of 47 Regiment Royal Artillery based at Baker Barracks on Thorney Island, were presented with Operational Service Medals with the Afghanistan Clasp.
The medal is awarded in recognition of their six-months tour of duty in Helmand.
Among the men and women presented with their medals from Major General Robert Weighill was Captain Heather Stanning.
Last year, with rowing partner Helen Glover, she brought the nation to its feet by winning Great Britain’s first gold medal at the London Olympics.
Captain Stanning signed up in 2008 and was allowed to train and participate in the Olympics before returning to the Royal Artillery.
Along with the rest of the regiment, she now has operational leave and will be off until January.
For many, it was the first time they had seen their loved ones since returning – some only got back last Saturday, and their families travelled from around the country to welcome them home.
Battery Commander Jonathan Buxton said: “This has been a day for families more than anyone – while their family members are away on tour, they suffer more than anyone.
“Children have also been presented with medals which is a nice touch.
“Deployment in Afghanistan, and receiving a medal, is something most soldiers aspire to.”
Bombardier brothers Mark, 26, and Adam Cook, 28, have both returned from tours and were recipients of medals.
Lance Bombardier Matthew Hooper, 24, returned to meet his four-month-old daughter Brooklyn, who was born in St Richard’s Hospital while he was away.
He was allowed to return for six days during the birth.
Many of the soldiers are celebrating with a ‘stiff drink this afternoon.’
Corporal Abba Sillah (30) was deployed for six-and-a- half months.
He came home to his wife and 19-month-old son, who had celebrated his first birthday just one week before Corporal Sillah went away.
“It’s absolutely priceless to be back home with my family,”
“Now, I look forward to some long leave so that I can spend some more time with them.”