Lee Thornton made a video-diary to reassure his family that he would return safe from his Iraq mission - tragically he never did.
THE Fylde coast is preparing to welcome its soldiers home as the British military presence in Iraq officially came to an end.
Yesterday's announcement brought the six-year campaign in the war-torn country to a close.
The end of combat operations came a month ahead of schedule and moving tributes were paid to the 179 UK troops who lost their lives.
A memorial service was held in Basra to honour those who died,
including 22-year-old Blackpool soldier Gunner Lee Thornton who was killed by a sniper's bullet while out on patrol in Basra in September 2006.
His heartbroken mother Karen welcomed the news of the withdrawal. She said: "I am glad the troops are pulling out.
"My only hope is that we do not have to go back to Iraq.
"It would be nice if there was some sense of stability brought to the country and that our mission in the country has not been in vain."
Coun Ron Bell, chairman of the Fylde Ex-Serviceman's Committee, paid tribute to the hard work of the Fylde troops during a campaign which has cost £6.4bn and seen 100,000 UK troops serve.
UK combat operations ended as 20th Armoured Brigade took part in a flag-lowering ceremony with a US brigade which now take over control of the southern part of the war-torn country.
Coun Bell said: "Our servicemen and women have gone through some harrowing experiences in Iraq and I welcome the fact they're coming home.
"There are still questions to be answered as to whether they should have been there is the first place.
"Our troops have done a fantastic job for this country and we should be very proud of what they've achieved.
"My thoughts go to the families of Lee Thornton and Paul Didsbury who lost their lives in the conflict."
Signaller Didsbury, 18, from Thornton, died in July 2005 when his own rifle accidentally went off while he was rushing to catch a helicopter transport at Basra Airport.
"Thirteen Fylde-born or based troops died in the conflict.
Michael Jack, MP for Fylde, said: "I think all of us will recognise the dangers the troops faced and the excellent work they did to bring more stability to the country.
"I salute their bravery but I'm glad for their sake this operation has come to an end."
Gordon Marsden, MP for Blackpool South, said: "The troops serving in Iraq have made a heroic contribution to that country and the tradition of our armed forces, particularly across Lancashire.
"The cost in human lives is all too clear in Blackpool with the tragic loss of Gunner Lee Thornton.
"The best tribute we can pay to our veterans is to make sure they are given the best care and support on their return."
Ben Wallace, MP for Wyre, said: "I'm delighted the troops are coming home.
"They've done their best under very difficult circumstances and while their mission is now complete, the political mission remains unfulfilled.
"My thoughts are with all the families who have lost loved ones during this conflict."
MP Joan Humble added: "As somebody who voted against the war in Iraq, I celebrate the return home of the troops.
"We should praise their courage and commitment and remember those who gave their lives fighting for this country."
Opposition leader David Cameron has called for an full inquiry into the Iraq war.
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