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Families pay tribute to Vikings

PUBLISHED: 06:30 01 February 2010 | UPDATED: 07:50 02 July 2010

The Viking Family Support Group meeting

The Viking Family Support Group meeting

Ben Kendall

Partners and families of Royal Anglian soldiers fighting in Afghanistan paid tribute to the bravery of their loved ones yesterday - and said they could not wait for their safe return.

Partners and families of Royal Anglian soldiers fighting in Afghanistan paid tribute to the bravery of their loved ones yesterday - and said they could not wait for their safe return.

About 50 people met up at a gathering in Norwich organised by the Viking Family Support Group. Their partners, sons and brothers have been on the frontline in the country's notorious Helmand province since October.

Among them was Vikki Craske, from North Walsham, whose fiancé Dan Greenland is currently serving in the Nad-e-Ali area. This is Mr Greenland's second tour of Afghanistan having previously fought in the Royal Anglian's 2007 deployment in which nine men lost their lives.

He was a close friend of L/Cpl Adam Drane and Pte Robert Hayes, the two fatalities of the current tour.

Miss Craske said: “Although he was out in 2007, he was very close to Adam and Robert so it has hit him harder this time around. I knew them as well and they will be missed by everyone.

“When he came back for R 'n' R we were able to talk it through but now when we talk on the phone he tries to stay up-beat because he doesn't want me worrying.

“They have been without a phone line for two weeks now so I'm desperate to hear from him.

“I just can't wait for him to get home so we can think about booking a holiday together and hopefully start planning our wedding. But it is so hard to make plans because you never know when they're going to be sent out again.”

The Viking Family Support Group was set up by families of soldiers. It operates an internet forum for members to discuss their concerns and regularly arranges events. Saturday's event took place in the Debenhams restaurant in Norwich.

Miss Craske said: “It helps being able to get together like this. We're all in the same situation and can support each other.”

The Nad-e-Ali area has seen some of the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan of recent months. In his recent mid-tour report, commanding officer Lt Col James Woodham MC told how troops had been involved in virtually daily battles with the Taliban.

Emily Richardson's boyfriend Stefan Marchese is also fighting in Nad-e-Ali. She said: “I get one phone call a week from him if I'm lucky. It can be hard because I think about him all the time and look forward to hearing from him, but it's not always possible.

“He can't talk much about what he's doing out there but I know they go out on patrol a lot. He seems happy enough and tries to cheer me up whenever he rings.

“Some days I just miss him so much and other days I find myself worried sick about him. I'm just looking forward to having him home.”

t For more information visit www.vikingfsg.co.uk

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