Special day for soldiers and families

Soldiers and their families enjoyed a free day out at Southwold Pier yesterday in recognition of their bravery – and left with “invaluable” memories to take with them on tour.

The event for squaddies from the 16th Medical Regiment and 13th Air Assault Support Regiment at Colchester Garrison was thanks to the generosity of Stephen Bournes, owner of the pier.

Food, drinks and change for the arcade was provided for the families, as well as a ride on the Coastal Voyager, as the Suffolk town basked in sunshine.

Captain Allan Parry, unit welfare officer for 16th Medical Regiment, said the training involved with a deployment meant the whole process could disrupt family life for up to 15 months.

“Time away with family really is at a premium and the generosity of Steve to facilitate this is invaluable to sustain morale while away,” Cpt Parry said.

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“The memories of time together with the family are really important for soldiers.”

Fifteen families enjoyed the hospitality and Mr Bournes said he felt all businesses should do what they could to support troops. Mr Bournes said: “We are really pleased and what is fantastic is the weather was just perfect for them.

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“I think I’m very lucky in life and like living where I’m living.

“These guys give such a lot for us to have what we have. I’d like to see local businesses stand up and offer more to these guys and be patriotic.

“I think that’s what it’s all about; we have got a great country.”

The two regiments are units of the 16th Air Assault Brigade, the British Army’s premier rapid response formation who suffered a series of deaths in recent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They will be deployed once again to Afghanistan in September.

Cpt Graham Hunter, of 16th Medical Regiment, was there with his children Hamish, two, and Angus, three.

“This is absolutely fantastic, it’s been a really good event and gives families a chance to wind down a little bit as a group,” he said. “We are very appreciative and it’s very special.”

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