Last Canadian troops return from Afghanistan

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OTTAWA — Master Cpl. Anthony Alliot returned to the love of his life, Sarah Tooth, greeting her with a passionate kiss on the lips.

He wasn’t actually expecting to see her in Ottawa, so he enjoyed the extra special surprise.

"It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and I’m glad I got to share it with a special lady," Alliot said.

As for their plans now that he’s back, Alliot says that’s not for public consumption.

"I don’t know if I can say it on TV, what I’m going to do," he said with a wry smile, holding Tooth close.

The long wait was finally over for Alliot and 83 other Canadian soldiers on Tuesday — the last troops to return to home soil from their final mission in Afghanistan.

The Ottawa hanger was full of tearful reunions and kids holding homemade welcome signs.

"I’m really excited because when he comes home I can’t wait to play with him," a smiling nine-year-old Trista Towns said of her stepdad, Cpl. Danny Berube, as he stepped off the behemoth Globemaster transport plane.

Gov. Gen. David Johnston, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson and the chief of defence staff, Gen. Tom Lawson welcomed and thanked the soldiers at a special ceremony.

"From Kabul to Kandahar, Canadians like you fought to loosen the grip of terror and repression," Harper said. "Whatever work remains, the people of Afghanistan are better off today because of Canada’s investments."

Before some of the soldiers took off for CFB Shiloh in Manitoba, and to CFB Edmonton, Harper also announced there would be another ceremony in May to honour all Canadians who served in Afghanistan.

"May 9 has been designated by royal proclamation as a National Day of Honour," he said. "On that day Canada will recognize those who fought, remember those who fell and salute all who contributed to this 10-year mission."

The commander of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan says he’s looking forward to the military parade in Ottawa that day.

"I think it’ll be a good team event," said Maj.-Gen. Dean Milner. "It will be a great chance to see a bunch of guys, men and women that I’ve served with over the last quite a few years in Afghanistan."

He also says he’s confident the Afghan forces Canada helped train since 2011 will be able to keep the Taliban at bay.

"Places where we didn’t have enough troops … the Afghan National Army and the police are in all of those places and along these little rat lines that (the Taliban) use to come in from Pakistan," said Milner.

Milner says there’s no question in his mind that Canada’s efforts in Afghanistan were worth it, though he acknowledges they came with great sacrifice.

Canada lost 158 military personnel in Afghanistan, while more than 2,000 were injured there.