VETERANS launched a bitter attack on the government's defence cuts as they welcomed the Staffords home to the county town this week.
Thousands turned out to cheer the 3rd Battalion of the Mercian Regiment as they paraded through Stafford after their return from a lengthy tour of duty in Afghanistan.
But local armed forces veterans said they were sad to see the loss of local history in the Army's shake-up of its regiments - and warned that continued cutbacks were putting the nation's defence at risk.
Marc Taylor, treasurer of the Stafford branch of the Staffordshire Regimental Association, branded defence cuts as "disgusting".
"We couldn't even stop a fight in a kindergarten any more," said Mr Taylor, aged 50, from Walton, Stone.
"This isn't just reorganisation, it is wholesale cuts and I find it shocking."
The former Lance Corporal, who served with the Staffords for 13 years and saw action in the first Gulf War, said he also regretted the loss of Staffordshire traditions in the new Mercian Regiment.
"The regiments now are bland," he added.
And Second World War veteran George Wright, chairman of the Stafford branch of the Royal British Legion, commented: "It is a disgrace. Our armed services are being cut back too far. If anything happened we would never stand a chance."
Mr Wright, of North Avenue, served in the Royal Navy on the cruiser HMS Aurora from 1943 to 1947, then had a second military career as a soldier in the 3rd King's Own Hussars until 1952.
Meanwhile former Wren Sue Johnson, aged 65, from Western Downs, Stafford, described the cuts as short-sighted.
"You never know what is around the corner," she said. "We should be aware of that and not get rid of so many people."
More than 250 servicemen and women from the 3rd Battalion, the Mercian Regiment, marched through the town centre to mark their return from Afghanistan.
The Staffords completed their second tour in Helmand Province earlier this year. It was their longest tour, with some of the troops spending up to nine months in Afghanistan.
And they brought some painful memories back with them - the Staffords lost Warrant Officer Ian Fisher during their latest tour of duty. The 42-year-old Staffordshire University graduate was killed in a suicide bomb attack in Helmand Province in November.
See pictures on page 6.