SWINDON SOLDIERS RETURN: THE RING on Jackie Howell's finger said it all.

It had been placed there by fianc Neil Garfoot, 38, from West Swindon, who had just returned home from serving with the Territorial Army in the Gulf.

Neil had asked Jackie to marry him with a message broadcast on local radio while he was in the Gulf, and Jackie said yes.

Jackie, 38, said: "I just want to get him home now. Not knowing where he was or what he was doing was the hardest part.

"I would listen to the news and you hear that British troops have been hurt and I would never know if it was Neil.

"I feel fantastic now he is back though. When he stepped off the coach it was the best feeling in the world."

Neil said he spent a lot of his time sat around doing nothing, but it was better being bored than seeing action.

He said: "We were there to decontaminate if weapons of mass destruction were used, but I didn't see any and I was very happy about it.

"There are so many things I have wanted to do that I've not been able to do.

"Just going to the pub or going to the toilet on china instead of in a hole.

"I missed the people, especially Jackie, and simple things like light switches."

Before going to Iraq Neil said he was not in favour of the war, but like many of his colleagues what he saw in the country changed his mind.

He said: "The way the people reacted when they saw us coming into town told me they were happy to be free.

"Their water and electricity had been cut off a couple of days before we arrived and they were all on the streets to see us when we arrived.

"We were told not to throw food or water to them, and we found out why when someone almost started a riot by throwing a bar of chocolate into the crowd.

"When we gave food out it was always in ones or twos and their faces were unbelievable, it was like Christmas for them.

"Now I am looking forward to getting used to my normal life and planning the wedding with Jackie."

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