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Happy 9th Birthday
Welcoming the weary traveller home since June 2008




Flight Arrivals Hall - RAF Brize Norton - 19 June 2008

In February 2008 an certain Army officer was unfortunately forced to return home from active duties in Afghanistan, after a media blackout was ignored by some press and his presence, as a serving soldier in a hostile area, was compromised.  That officer was our very own Prince Harry.

Prince Harry's return the UK sparked media interest at RAF Brize Norton, the returning hub for armed forces serving overseas.  It also sparked interest for us families living at the base, and an idea was formed to be at the gate to welcome him home with banners and flags.  This simple, and some would say silly, idea turned out to be one of the most emotional experiences of The YRFs time promoting support for our Armed Forces.  Because whilst we waited for hours outside the Base, dozens of serving men and women were also returning home on the same flight.  As they drove out of the Base with their friends and family, we waved and cheered at them. 

A flip comment from one tabloid media hack, suggesting we didn't appear to realise that the person in combats we enthusiastically waved and cheered isn't actually Prince Harry, resulted in my equally flip retort that those men and women deserved as much of a flag waving welcome home as anyone, royal or not!  An idea was born.  Seeing those tired but ecstatic serving personnel waving back at us with such delight, we quickly realised just how much happiness this impromptu "welcome home" brought.  How can we do this for everyone returning home?

A week after waving Prince Harry back home, and having had our chance to also fangirl at Princes Charles and William, we talked at length about how the Station might feel about something being installed in the Arrivals Hall.  We asked for feedback on the idea in principle from various officers, with particular thanks to those on 216 Squadron.  They said it was a wonderful idea, crazy but WOW!  A tangible suggestion was formed, and the Station formally approached with trepidation. "Yes" was the immediate response.

And so on 19 June 2008, with no fuss or ceremony, a sign went up in the Arrivals Hall.  Just two words, but for 8 years it said all that was needed to be said, to weary personnel disembarking from long tours away from family.  A symbol that said yes, I am finally home.

Initially we heard sad reports that the sign took a fall in 2016, breaking when it hit the terminal floor, however we are delighted to confirm this was just mixed communications, and the sign is still very much in place.  Waiting for the weary traveller to return, doing its job with dignity and pride.  Welcoming home approximately 200,000 passengers per year!

Happy birthday indeed.
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