Hundreds of a Royal Marines who have recently returned from combat operations in Afghanistan received operational service medals at a ceremony in Plymouth (Friday November 11) and were told to have pride in their achievements.
After the huge Afghanistan home-coming and Armistice parade in Plymouth City Centre, 42 Commando individually honoured troops who served for six months with distinction in Helmand Province.
About 3,000 family and friends braved torrential rain and high wind to see the 650 combat-hardened Marines receive their campaign medals from guest of honour Major General Gordon Messenger, at their base Bickleigh Barracks.
General Messenger addressed the parade and families. He praised the troops: “I must congratulate 42 Commando for a really first class tour of Afghanistan. It is not easy being a soldier in Afghanistan, they have to be three seemingly contrasting personas. First they have to be combat troops and ready to fight at any time, second they have to be diplomats ready to reassure the people of Afghanistan rather than frighten them by their presence and thirdly be trainers and mentors to the Afghan forces, both army and police.
“Often they have to be possess all characteristics at the same time, firing at insurgents and reassuring a young Afghan child at the same time. They therefore, have to be very skilled at combing these skills and deploying them at the right time, showing great dexterity and courage and empathy, which 42 Commando have done supremely well.
“The legacy of 42 Commando’s success will last for many years in Afghanistan. And they have not done this without loss or sacrifice. I and the rest of us who cannot begin to appreciate fully the grief, courage and anguish the families of those who have lost men in combat. It can only be imagined by the rest of us.
“I can only say that the support of the Royal Marines will be with the families who have suffered loss for as long as they need it. Royal Marines never forget. These families are a part of the Royal Marine family as a whole and will be treated as such.’’
General Messenger thanked all families for their support: “I must also thank all the families of the Marines. You are the unsung heroes of tours. The guys can share experiences they have jointly undergone and which they have volunteered for as a job they find rewarding. But families are not in that position and feel anguish and stress of separation alone and sometimes have endured this on up to three tours. This requires its own courage and patience.”
The massed ranks of marines then applauded their loved ones.
General Messenger said the deployment was likely to be the last time 3 Commando Brigade would deploy on such a scale. But Royal Marines still had a specialist in the future as small scale, short notice deployable forces.
The family of Corporal Dez (Dearan) Withall, Kilo-Company, said they were honoured to see him received his operations medal. Kylie Withall said: “We are very proud of Dez. He has not spoken much about Afghanistan. But he will in time. He loves the Marines it is his life and this has been his second tour of Afghanistan.’’
Injured Marine Alex Brewer, of Lima Company, stood up from his wheelchair on parade to receive his campaign medal. He had his leg amputated from above the knee. Elizabeth Crosses were awarded at the parade to relatives of the seven Royal Marines who died due to combat injuries.
He was also watched by his father Bill and mother Sara Withall, auntie Linden Carruthers and grandmother Evelyn Carrauthers.