Officers, Soldiers and families of 11 Brigade.
It is a huge honour to be here today with you and many of your families to welcome you all home after what has been an immensely challenging operational tour in Afghanistan.
Although we are all here to celebrate your return, the price has been extremely high – and I join you in mourning those 64 soldiers who are not here and who made the ultimate sacrifice during these past months. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to their families as they continue to come to terms with their agonising loss.
There have also been a devastating number of serious casualties – some of whom I am delighted to see here today. I know that the extraordinary care you have received at Selly Oak hospital and Headley Court is second to none and you have, I am relieved to say, all made such remarkable recoveries, a clear testament to your determined spirit and ongoing bravery.
I have been following Operation Herrick 11 particularly closely not least because of my husband’s visit to Afghanistan, but also because A Company of 4 RIFLES, one of my own regiments, was among you, so I know just how difficult the tour has been. For months on end many of you have dealt with the constant, deadly threat of IEDs, you have had to fight fierce battles with the Taliban insurgents while at the same time overcoming the austere conditions of Helmand province. Through all this adversity you have fought on with immense courage, displaying the highest level of dedication loyalty and professionalism as you have gone about bringing stability and security to this troubled region. You are all heroes and I salute you all for a job very well done.
At this point, if I may, I would also like to pay tribute to your wonderful families and loved ones who, as always, have been keeping the home fires burning while you have been away. You too have undergone many of your own challenges back at home living in constant fear for those whom you love so dearly. I know you have been an immense support to them and I want to offer you my warmest admiration for all you have been through.
As 11 Light Brigade prepares to be disbanded and you now move on to new challenges, I am hugely humbled and proud to be here standing in front of you today knowing what you have returned from. You are all an immense credit to your Regiments, the Brigade and to this country, and you have proved, once again, that the British Army is the best in the world.