Fylde-based soldiers were honoured for the bravery and courage they showed serving their country at a special medal ceremony.
More than 260 troops from the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, based at Weeton Barracks, were recognised with Afghanistan campaign medals following the unit’s final tour of the country.
The soldiers, who recently returned home after a six month stay, were presented with medals by outgoing colonel of the regiment, Brig Mike Griffiths, his successor Brig Peter Rafferty and the regiment’s commanding officer, Lt Col Neil Unsworth.
Lt Col Unsworth praised the efforts of the soldiers, who for many were touring Afghanistan for the first time.
He added: “It’s a really special moment for many of them who are receiving their first medal.
“A lot of families are here to recognise what their loved ones have done.
“I am immensely proud of all of them.
“I am amazed at the job they have done and the understanding they’ve shown.
“By previous standards we had a fairly quiet tour, but there was not a day where we did not have someone shooting at us.
“We also had to deal with improvised explosive devices and rocket propelled grenades. It has not been easy.”
The troops, based in Helmand Province, worked in the Nad-e Ali region to drive Taliban forces from the area and train Afghan forces.
The regiment also forged links with the community, raising £3,000 to re-build a school with a charity barbecue as well as a marathon, which involved running 69 laps of the troops’ base at night time, to avoid hot daytime temperatures.
Kingsman Daniel Richardson, from Bispham, toured for close to five months.
The 26-year-old said the medal ceremony was a proud moment: “It’s great to be back – I’m glad I’m home.
“It’s wonderful for my dad, stepmum and girlfriend to be here.
“Previous tours have been tougher for soldiers but it goes to show that what we are doing is making a difference.
“When the tours first started, soldiers could not leave the base without having to worry about being attacked.
“Now we’ve developed a green zone, a safe zone, where we can go out and help to train Afghan forces and support farmers and people in the area.”
After a break for Christmas, the regiment will travel to the Falkland Islands next year for further training.
Officer’s pride at town parades
The medal ceremony at Weeton took place just days after the battalion’s successful homecoming parades across the North West, including St Annes.
More than 120 soldiers walked through the town on Wednesday after returning from Afghanistan.
Lt Col Neil Unsworth, commanding officer, said: “It was a genuine privilege to be invited to march through St Annes on our return from Afghanistan and it was a proud moment for all of us.
“The support we have had from the people back home in the Fylde while we have been on combat operations in Helmand has been amazing.
“It made a real difference and I’d like to publicly thank everyone who took the trouble to write and send parcels.”
First time tourist, Kingsman Dean Frank Edmunds-Ventre, from South Shore, said the six-month trip to Afghanistan had been a great experience: “At 19 I was the youngest in our regiment to go.
“The medal ceremony has been a wonderful day for us all.”