Dragoons homecoming: Photo gallery - High praise for ‘spectacular’ Light Dragoons homecoming parade turnout
The impressive turn out for the Light Dragoons homecoming parade in Dereham was described as 'spectacular' and 'overwhelming' by the regiment's commanding officer.
Lt Col Sam Plant said at today's reception in the town's Memorial Hall: 'It has been amazing. It couldn't have gone better. The relationship between the Light Dragoons and the local community is very special indeed. Not all regiments enjoy what we have here. We feel so privileged to enjoy days like we had today. It has been wonderful.'
Some 400 people, the majority of whom were soldiers, were at the event which was attended by dignitaries including the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk Richard Jewson.
A matching decanter and engraved bottle of port was presented to Lt Col Plant for the regiment and all 350 soldiers will be awarded a gold plated commemorative coin to mark the parade at a later date. The coin was produced by Breckland Council and Norfolk County Council.
Light Dragoon trooper Dean Vann, 25, from Dereham, said the parade gave the regiment 'a massive sense of pride'.
He added: 'We have realised that what we do out there is not unnoticed. There is a massive sense of achievement.'
Mr Vann grew up in Norwich and studied at Hellesdon High School and joined the Light Dragoons aged 21.
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He was deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in March this year and during his time there he was the front man of a patrol unit.
'It is very dangerous but we are making a big difference out there. The heat is exhausting, but it makes it worthwhile when you see communities being built and when people welcome you. There are times when people don't welcome you but we are making a big influence there,' he added.
Robin Goreham, Breckland Council chairman, said: 'I'm very proud of the soldiers from Swanton Morley who have done us proud. They often have to make a very big sacrifice - sometimes they have to make the biggest sacrifice.
'The soldiers are doing a fantastic job and they thoroughly deserve the reception and the support from the public out on the street, which was tremendous.'
He was Dereham mayor when the Light Dragoons moved to the Robertson Barracks in Swanton Morley 12 years ago.
Ian Monson, Norfolk County Council chairman, said it was an 'honour and a privilege' to have the Light Dragoons based in the mid-Norfolk village.
He said: 'This is something the whole county can take part in. I'm speaking on behalf of the whole county in welcoming them home. This is something they deserve and something we should do. I hope the soldiers enjoy the day.
'Clearly there are more tough times ahead of them, but today is a day to show our appreciation of what they have done.'
Mr Monson added: 'It has been a most magnificent turn out in the bitter cold, The school children were waving there flags and shouting their hearts out. It was very moving and I was overwhelmed by the support that this town and Norfolk has given today.'