TEENAGER Jamie Patterson was given a hero’s welcome by his proud mum after returning home from Afghanistan.
The 19-year-old, from Houghton, was among dozens of officers and soldiers from the 132 Battery, 39 Regiment Royal Artillery The Welsh Gunners, honoured at a special ceremony.
The troops returned from Helmand Province having spent a difficult six months away from family and friends on the front line.
They were awarded with operational service medals during a military parade at Albemarle Barracks, Northumberland.
“It means a lot,” said Jamie. “It’s a very proud moment standing there and getting your medal. It was difficult for me when I was first sent out there.
“The first month I was out there it was worse because it’s that first bit when you are away from your family.
“Every spare moment you are thinking about home.”
Family and friends travelled to the North East from all over the country for the emotional homecoming and cheered as they watched their loved ones march by.
They are now looking forward to spending time with their families or taking a holiday before they return to the barracks later this summer.
Jamie’s mum Marie Smail said: “I was very proud to see him get his medal. It’s been very hard while he’s been away. I’m just pleased to have him back now though.”
The Battery was charged with operating an artillery system called the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket and providing support to the 20 Armoured Brigade.
The soldiers have been replaced in Afghanistan by soldiers from the Regiment’s 176 Battery, and are scheduled to return in 2014.
Retired Colonel Peter Williams, who presented the medals, said: “It was very challenging for the soldiers.
“For the wives, girlfriends and husbands left behind. It can be harder for them, as when soldiers are deployed on operations they know the risks.”