CROWDS in Bury St Edmunds turned out in their hundreds on Saturday to support their troops on Armed Forces Day.
The morning saw II Squadron RAF Regiment, based at RAF Honington, mark its return from operations in Afghanistan with a homecoming parade.
The squadron, which returned from a six-month deployment to Camp Bastion, in Helmand, on May 2, marched under the Abbey Gate and through the town centre to the arc before returning to Angel Hill, led by an RAF band.
Among those watching the parade was Emma Buckley, the proud wife of Sergeant Doug Buckley, from Thetford.
She said: “It’s wonderful to have the lads back home. It is always testing for friends and family when they are away and it’s great to see them back safe.”
The parade ended with a presentation of Afghanistan Campaign medals by the squadron’s station commander, Group Captain Andrew Hall, and was followed by a civic reception for squadron members and their families.
Corporal Ashley Watson, 28, said; “It was a challenging tour and the squadron worked incredibly hard out in Afghanistan.
“It is great to be home now, and the support that we have received while on tour and now as we parade on our homecoming, has been brilliant”.
The Abbey Gardens were awash with activity in the afternoon, with live music, including big band music from the County Upper School Swing Band, 1940s songs from the Stagecoach Theatre Arts School and concerts by the Wattisham Military Wives Choir and The Red Mock Chili Peppers.
Entertainment included a field gun challenge from the Air Training Corps.
Grp Capt Hall said: “II Squadron performed magnificently during their deployment and I am very proud of their operational achievements.
“What a great Armed Forces Day celebration, combined with the II Squadron homecoming parade. It has been a privilege to parade through Bury and to receive such a high level of public support – thank you for providing such a positive message to our personnel.”
A day earlier, a special dedication service was held at the memorial garden at RAF Honington, in honour of Senior Aircraftman Ryan Tomlin.
The 21-year-old member of II Squadron was fatally wounded while on patrol.
Lord Tollemache, the Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, presented his family with the Elizabeth Cross and Memorial Scroll, which are granted to the next of kin of UK Armed Forces personnel who have died on operations.
They were also presented with a memorial plaque that holds his medal.
The aim of Armed Forces Day, now in its fourth year, is to boost public support and appreciation of all those who serve and have served in Her Majesties Armed Forces.