Turn out to salute RAF heroes as they return to Stamford from Afghanistan

Sgt Darren Bridges with his children. Sgt Bridges is one of the 3 Squadron  members who returned to RAF Wittering after a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Sgt Darren Bridges with his children. Sgt Bridges is one of the 3 Squadron members who returned to RAF Wittering after a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
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War veterans are calling on people to turn out in force for a parade next week by RAF Wittering personnel just back from Afghanistan.

Members of the 3 Squadron RAF regiment’s returned from a gruelling six-month tour of duty last week and on Thursday will hold their homecoming parade through Stamford town centre.

The Stamford branch of the Royal British Legion is now urging everyone to come out and show their support for the servicemen and women.

Legion member Steve Bonde said: “We need to show them that they enjoy the full support of the people they leave behind. Not just their relatives but also the people of the town.

“They make many sacrifices and risk injury and death and the least we can do is make them see just how much we value them and that we think about them when they are out there.

“Let us show them properly our pride in their achievements.”

Thursday’s parade will start at 10am in Bath Row. The squadron will then march through Sheep Market, All Saints’ Street, All Saints’ Square, St John’s and St Mary’s Streets and past the town hall, finishing at Station Road.

Mayor Brian Sumner will take a salute as the personnel pass through Red Lion Square.

He said: “I’m privileged to be taking the salute.

“They served their country well in a very difficult situation and I’m really glad that they have come back safely.

“I hope lots of people turn out to welcome them into Stamford.”

Legion members will form a guard of honour in Red Lion Square. Families of the servicemen and women were at RAF Wittering to welcome them back from Afghanistan.

A delighted Siobhan Cotter, whose other half Ryan was among the returning group, said: “I am ecstatic and overwhelmed that he has come home safely!”

The squadron has now completed five tours of duty in Afghanistan.

Working in temperatures of 40C over the last six months, they provided round-the-clock cover for Camp Bastion, the British military base in Helmand province.

It included protecting aircraft operating from Bastion airfield, patrolling a 600sq km area of Helmand, and protecting RAF evacuation helicopters and medics as they help injured personnel and Afghan nationals.

It is also an important logistics hub for the return of equipment and personnel to the UK, in which 3 Squadron has directly assisted.

Squadron Leader Mark Raimondo, the RAF Regiment’s commanding officer, said: “Whatever role they have performed, the members of the squadron have done their jobs in a highly-professional manner and have all played their part in a very successful tour.”

RAF Wittering’s station commander Group Capt Damian Alexander said he was proud to welcome 3 Squadron back home.