Tony Abbott welcomes Diggers home

Soldiers marched, children cheered and there was a truce in a nasty political spat when Diggers who served in Afghanistan were honoured in a welcome home parade in Darwin on Saturday.

In his address to 250 Darwin-based former Afghanistan soldiers, a visibly emotional Prime Minister told them the nation was forever grateful, after a conflict that cost 40 Australian lives and left 260 seriously wounded. 

''Australians don't fight to conquer; we fight to help, to build and to serve,'' Tony Abbott said. ''So yes, it was worth it. The price was high but the cause was great and the success has been sufficient.''

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Speaking after the reception in the Northern Territory Parliament building, one of the servicemen, Blake Dobe, said it was terrific to have the recognition from the community, and from both sides of politics.

''It was good to let everyone know that we're back and see our families and such, but it was good being over there as well,'' he said.

For his wife Carly Dobe and their daughter Madison, 8, the long wait was the hardest thing.

''You don't have them home to talk to, you're naturally worried about them, you can't talk to them all the time, but when they get back it's really great because, obviously, the kids miss them and it's great to have our family back together,'' she said.

The parade and reception also brought together Mr Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to jointly officiate, after Mr Shorten hastily rearranged his schedule to attend the parade. Earlier he had indicated he would be represented by a junior stand-in.

Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison praised the decision of both sides of politics to get behind the military, drawing a line under the divisions of last week when a senior officer was accused by Labor of engaging in a political cover-up.

Mr Abbott used the celebration to announce a special national day of commemoration for the 30,000 Australian personnel who had served in the Middle East theatre of war since 2001.

It will be held on March 21, 2015.

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