One of Britain’s most decorated Marines has been made a ‘Freeman of his Home Town’ in recognition of heroic acts including one where he ran 50 metres under fire to pull injured comrades from a vehicle hit by a mine.
Warrant Officer First Class Matthew Tomlinson, 43, already holds the Military Cross and the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for his heroics in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
And hundreds turned out as he was paraded through Street, Somerset, on Saturday to become the first ever Freeman of the former Quaker town.
Father-of-three Matthew was driven through the High Street in an open-top vintage car with his wife Sharon, daughter Ellis, 13, and sons Harvey, six and Daniel, four.
He was accompanied by Sea, Air and Army cadets and the Royal British Legion.
WO1 Tomlinson paid tribute to 40 Commando, who recently returned to their barracks in Taunton, Somerset, after losing 14 of their ranks.
He said: ”I ask that you join me in welcoming them home, and that you all remember everything they’ve done, remember their injured and never forget their fallen.
”I have many fond memories of my younger days in Street – amazing memories – it was a perfect place to grow up.”
Fighting back tears, he added: ”Thank you all. Each and every one of you for this honour.
”Thank you Street for all the memories – memories that have kept me going through tough times, memories I have called on when I’ve been in the middle of action to keep me strong and keep me going.
”I’m so grateful for this honour, it’s just amazing. Thank you all for being here, it’s appreciated and, believe me, it is felt by all.”
WO1 Tomlinson was awarded the MC for for his actions when a lead Viking vehicle was blown up by a mine in Helmand Province, killing Mne Jason Mackie instantly.
Braving Taliban fire, and with RPG’s raining down, he ran from his vehicle to pull his stricken comrades from under a burning vehicle before recovering the body of Mne Mackie.
Bryan Beha, chairman of Street Parish Council, said: ”It is overwhelming pride that we welcome WO1 Tomlinson back to Street.
”While we are here today to commemorate the courage an bravery of this man, we are all to aware of the people who stay behind and wait for them to return.
”You may wonder why this village – traditionally a Quaker pacifist town posing as a village – would want to honour someone in this way.
”We all enjoy our freedom here, but we we are all aware that freedom isn’t free – it is bought for us by the people who are willing to fight for it.”