Emotional farewell for returning local soldiers
Cheering crowds and flag-waving schoolchildren greeted soldiers in an emotional homecoming from their final tour of duty in Afghanistan.
It was the penultimate time that the soldiers of the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment (3Mercian), formerly the Staffords, would march together.
Today(SAT) they were in Lichfield, parading for the last time as a battalion. 3 Mercian is to merge with two other battalions of the Mercians as part of plans to reduce the regular army by 20,000.
More than 250 soldiers took part in the pageant in Cannock after which they received the Freedom of the District, alongside the Staffordshire Regimental Association, who also marched through the streets.
The parade started at St Luke's Church and turned into the town centre where loud cheers went up from proud family members, friends and flag-waving supporters.
Schoolchildren from St Peter's Primary in Hednesford brought a specially made regimental banner and their own school standard. Pupils from St Luke's Primary in Cannock were also among the crowd.
It was a special day for 22-year-old Private Daniel Summers, from Bradbury Lane, Hednesford, whose parents Lynda(CORR) and Michael, brother Darren, 25, and friends were there to cheer him on.
He said: "It's a good feeling to be marching through my own home town, especially with my family being here, but it's also sad that it's the last time I'll ever do it with this regiment."
Sgt Maj Jay Woodward, 32, a former Cannock Chase High School pupil, said: "The parade is special for us. We've all made a lot of friends in this battalion."
The salute was taken by the West Midland Lord Lieutenant Ian Dudson. Afterwards he said: "Clearly this is a very proud day. In an ideal world, we wish everything would stay the same but on the positive side, we still retain our link with the regiment through its name and its strong recruiting base in the county."
Council leader George Adamson said: "The honour was ours. It was important to show our respect and gratitude."
Local soldiers were also presented with their operational service medals for Afghanistan. If followed similar farewell parades this week in Wolverhampton, Stafford and Walsall.
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