THE mum of a Flintshire soldier who was injured in an Afghan blast has spoken of her relief at his return to the UK in the wake of the death of a fellow Flintshire serviceman.

Gary Anders, 26, of Connah’s Quay, was left with agonising shrapnel wounds and burns after a mine exploded in Gereshk, Helmand Province last year.

The blast claimed the life of his best friend, Corporal Loren Marlton-Thomas, known as Loz, just days before he was due to fly home to spend Christmas with his new wife.

Now Gary, a bomb disposal engineer, has returned from the war-torn country and will serve in the UK for the next two years.

His return is good news for mum Jaci, who said the deaths last week of Alan Cochran from Pentre Halkyn and Terry Webster in a gun battle in Helmand Province were especially poignant.

Jaci, 46, of Normanby Drive, said: “Gary is back at his UK camp in Cambridge now and he will be on duty here from now on.

“It’s such a relief for all of us, especially after hearing about the deaths of the two local lads. You just don’t expect it to hit so close to home.

“Families just don’t realise what the soldiers are going through out there. It was only after Gary’s accident that I saw the footage of the blast on Channel 4 News.

“It was about two weeks before he came home and if I had seen it any earlier, I would’ve been panicking.”

Gary’s cousin Daryl Garside has also returned home from service in Afghanistan and the whole family celebrated with a meal.

Jaci has also thanked her work colleagues, who sent boxes of ‘home comforts’, including sweets and soap, to Gary and his colleagues while they were on duty.

She added: “The girls have been absolutely great. You just don’t think work colleagues would pull together and do so much for you like that.

“It really helped the lads while they were out there, but I’m so relieved that they are back now and I don’t have to worry.

“Gary is glad to be home, but he’ll never get over losing Loz.

“I just hope it ends soon and all the other lads out there can come home safely.”