Utah soldiers receive huge sendoff from friends, neighbors

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A detachment of soldiers from Southern Utah experienced quite a sendoff from their hometowns Wednesday. The 30 reservists traveled in a convoy to Salt Lake City to join the rest of their company to prepare to deploy to Afghanistan.

As the soldiers of the 1st Detachment of the 118th Engineer Sapper Company rolled through Moab, they were greeted by a blaring police and firefighter escort.

They got the same treatment in Blanding and Monticello, and several other towns on the way.

"I felt very honored myself to be rolling through and see all the people wave us off like that," said Spc. Casey Singer.

Among the soldiers are several members of the Navajo Nation. Singer comes from Kayenta, Ariz. His grandfather was a Marine code talker; his father a Vietnam-era soldier. Military service is his legacy.

"Just being Native American, you know, the first Americans to be here, we've got to fight for what everybody else is fighting for as well," Singer said.

In Afghanistan, the Sappers, as they're known, will handle the dangerous task of clearing routes of roadside bombs for other troops.

"These communities feel like these are their sons and daughters who are going to war, and in fact they are," said Capt. Blake Bingham.

"For the last several months, they always come up and they ask, ‘When you takin' off? We're here for you," Spc. Lucien Butler said.

Many of their families joined the convoy so they could spend a couple more days with their soldiers.

"You're not going to see your husband for a year. It's just really important to have that family and support group to show them how much they're loved and how thankful we are for what they're doing for their country," said Chelsea Mayne, whose husband is part of the Sapper company.

The entire company leaves Salt Lake this weekend. They plan to train at a U.S. base before deploying to Afghanistan in a month or so.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com


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