PRINCE Harry has hailed the efforts of six wounded Afghanistan veterans who finished a 1,000-mile trek of Britain.
The group of ex-servicemen and women reached the Buckingham Palace finishing line at around 10.30am yesterday morning and were greeted with cheers, applause and hugs from Harry.
Since the start of the walk in August, the team has travelled the length and breadth of Britain over 72 days and were joined by Harry along the walk, as well as celebrities and American football stars.
Among the group are three victims of IED blasts in Afghanistan, amputees and two who suffered traumatic brain injuries while another lost an eye.
The only woman taking part, Kirstie Ennis, shared an emotional moment with Harry after she gave him a dog tag she had carried throughout the journey.
The ex-US servicewoman gave him a tag enscribed with the name TJ Baune – in memory of Corporal Taylor John Baune, who had served with Ms Ennis before he was killed in Afghanistan in 2012 aged 21.
Ten days after he died she received serious injuries after her helicopter crashed. She has undergone 38 operations over the past three years.
Ms Ennis said Harry was reluctant to take the dog tag because he “knew what it means” to her, and explained that the walk helped her still feel part of the military family.
She added: “TJ never came home. He had a wife and he never came home. We came home, we are some of the lucky ones. The least we can do is honour their legacy.”
The Walk of Britain is designed to raise awareness of the work of the charity Walking With The Wounded (WWTW), which supports injured members of the armed forces back into independence through employment.
The group finished the trek by walking along The Mall before they were greeted by Harry on the forecourt of the Palace.
He hugged them and upon hearing they had missed the Rugby World Cup final, joked: “If you’re going to finish the day after the Rugby World Cup you may as well have watched it.”
Matt Fisher, 30, who was shot in the foot on Boxing Day in 2009, praised Harry’s support of the walk as “amazing”.
He added: “He is the man for the armed forces, he gets involved.”
The former Rifles member was joined by his two young daughters and his wife at the Palace, and said he might feel “lost” after completing the 10-week trek.
He said: “I have been staring at the map of the route for the last six months. Now we’ll go back home and and I will feel a bit lost.
“We have had some incredible experiences and we all need to reflect on that.”
The trek through mainland UK has seen them reach the summit of four peaks – Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, Snowdon and Pen Y Fan.
The challenge was launched earlier this year at a reception attended by Harry, who called the walk “formidable”.
In September Harry joined the team of four Britons and two Americans for a 17-mile leg which took them through Shropshire, near Ludlow.
One of the group, Alec Robotham, is a 29-year-old former Royal Marine who was left with arm and leg injuries when he was blown up by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2010.
He welcomed Harry’s presence on the walk, and said the pair had enjoyed “everyday chat” about military life.