SEE VIDEO: Hunstanton salutes American Air Force squadron for flood disaster heroism

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They came in their hundreds, to remember those who went before and to celebrate a union cemented forever by tragedy.

Crowds packed into the heart of Hunstanton on Saturday to see the US Air Force 67th Special Operations Squadron parade on the day it was formally granted the freedom of the town.

The 67th USAF Special Operations Squadron Freedom March at Hunstanton ANL-140410-191856009

The 67th USAF Special Operations Squadron Freedom March at Hunstanton ANL-140410-191856009

The award, which is the first of its kind to be bestowed by the town, honours the squadron’s contribution to the rescue operation after the 1953 flood disaster, in which 31 people, including 16 Americans, were killed.

As the parade passed, one resident spoke for all as she shouted: “Thank you.”

The squadron’s current commander, Lt Col John Peak, said accepting the freedom scroll and leading the parade was the “highlight” of his military career.

The family of Reis Leming, who was awarded the George Medal for saving 27 lives on the night of the tragedy, also received the freedom of the town during a private ceremony at the town hall.