Posted by: the watchmen | November 4, 2008

Royal Irish Welcomed Home!

 

 

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Published Date: 03 November 2008

FOR the first time in decades, Ulster soldiers were yesterday welcomed home from battle with a public parade through the streets of Belfast.
Members of the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Army, some as young as 18, marched behind the Royal Irish Regiment’s band and the Irish wolfhound mascots of the Royal Irish and Irish Guards.

Until now, soldiers have returned to little public acknow

 

of the sacrifices they have undertaken in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One soldier told how he was brought through a back exit at a UK airport when he returned from Iraq, leading him to believe that the troops were an embarrassment to the public.

But yesterday a crowd estimated at 50,000 thronged the centre of the capital to see Ulster troops walk along the same streets where soldiers in previous centuries have been publicly welcomed home.

Yesterday soldiers and their families, senior military officers and leading politicians said that it was fitting to publicly show soldiers that they are appreciated, irrespective of whether politicians had been right in sending them to war.

Lt Col Andrew Cullen, commanding officer of 2 Royal Irish, said that it was the “right recognition” of what his soldiers had been through.

“I think they don’t quite know what to make of it because they are characters who go off and do it quietly – they don’t necessarily expect the amount of adulation that was shown, but it’s absolutely right for what they have done.”

Lt Col Cullen also said that it was a measure of how far Northern Ireland has now come in recent years.

“I walked down Chichester Street in uniform with people coming up and shaking me by the hand.

 homecoming fit for heroes

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Let’s face it, that wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago but it happens now and it’s just wonderful.”

Speaking after the parade, Robert Crangle, 60, from Bangor, who came to see his sons, Glenn and Ian, march with the Royal Irish, said: “I’m so pr

 

oud today, although I’m disgusted that the parade was cut back.

“I think it’s good that they have had this so soon after they came back.

“I don’t like the politics that has come into it – if it was an orange and green thing, I could understand it, but it’s not.”

Ranger Marshall, 22, from Ballymena, said: “It’s hard to explain how I feel – I’m emotional more than anything.

“We didn’t think it was going to be that big a crowd and the police did a cracker job.”

Ranger Jamieson, 25, from Newtownabbey, said: “It makes you feel happy in the fact that a lot of people out there not just respect you, but take an interest in what you do.

“I don’t think my job’s anything different from what a policeman or a fireman would do yet they wouldn’t get the same sort of event – I feel very fortunate.”

And the Royal Irish Regiment’s dog handler, Ranger Johnny Green, 20, from east Belfast, marched at the head of the parade with the Royal Irish mascot, Irish wolfhound Brian Boru XIII, along with the Irish Guard’s dog handler and its wolfhound mascot.

He said that Brian Boru had not been overawed by the tens of thousands of people.

“He was fine – he gets along with the other dog just from meeting this morning and he was quite good with the crowds as he is trained from a very young age to be around crowds and socialise without biting kids or doing anything nasty,” he said.

“It was great to see so many people out to support the troops – it didn’t matter what regiment and there was no religious divide, which is the way it should be.”

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