Marines return home from Afghanistan

ROYAL Marines from 40 Commando returned home last week after a six-month deployment to Afghanistan.

During the operation, 14 marines, which included Corporal Stephen Walker, from Exmouth, were killed. Eleven were seriously injured.

About 600, many of whom are drawn from East Devon, had been serving since April in the Sangin area of Helmand Province before it was taken over by US forces in September.

The homecoming was described as a ‘bittersweet’ moment by officers who recognised the joy of returning to friends and family was tempered by the loss the unit had experienced over the tour.

Major Duncan Forbes said: “It’s a sad day for those families who have not got their husbands coming back.

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“Their sacrifice was not made in vain; they did an amazing job every day, showing bravery and leadership, which is humbling for us as their leaders to look to.”

During their deployment 40 Commando worked in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to disrupt insurgent operations.

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Exmouth man Stephen Walker, an ex-Navy chef turned Royal Marine, was killed while on foot patrol following an explosion in Helmand Province in May.

The Journal reported last month how selfless Walker had saved the life of one of his fellow troops hours before his own death.

Speaking as the Marines started handing over authority for Sangin to US forces, Lieutenant Colonel Paul James, Commanding Officer of 40 Commando Royal Marines, said:

“It’s been a hard fight but we have achieved much.

“There is still work to do, and we are confident that our American partners will build on what we have achieved.

“We have lost brave Marines, but we will do them proud and return home with our heads held high.”

British forces have been in Sangin, a key economic and transport hub, since 2006.

The handover of authority for Sangin to US forces allows UK forces to focus their efforts in central Helmand where they will continue to deliver effective counter-insurgency operations, working alongside the ANSF.

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