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17 soldiers leaving Utah to serve in Kosovo

By Shara Park | Posted - Apr 26th, 2013 @ 12:04pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — Less than 24 hours after Utah families welcomed home 150 soldiers from a year-long deployment to Afghanistan, another group of solders is headed out, this time to Kosovo.

The families saying goodbye to their soldiers Friday are doing so for the third, fourth, even fifth time.

Saying goodbye is hard - especially when you're saying it to little ones. Hayley Breck is saying goodbye to her 5-year-old daughter, Tucker.

"She's my only [child]. This sucks," she said. Breck says it's only possible because of family members who are stepping up to care for her daughter.

Many of the soldiers from the Utah Army National Guard's 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade will miss big milestones in their families' lives. Lt. Col. Ronald Jonas of South Ogden is on his third deployment and will miss his son leaving on an LDS mission to Guam. His youngest, Blake, starts baseball this year.

"You don't get used to it. The buildup gets worse and worse," he said.

Lt. Col Jonas, though sad to leave his family, is looking forward to the mission ahead. In Kosovo, he and the 16 other soldiers leaving Friday will work with local police and government officials to build a better society.

You don't get used to it. The buildup gets worse and worse.

–Lt. Col. Ronald Jonas

"Kosovo is trying to become a country, trying to figure out what they're going to be when they grow up," he said.

Lt. Col Jonas' wife is proud of her husband's decision to once again serve for the Utah Army National Guard. She wears a special necklace while he's gone.

"My daughter gave this to me, and it says, ‘Love - when you take off your pearls and wear his dog tags,'" Denise Jonas said.

Col. Robert Dunton is the commander of the unit leaving. It is his fifth deployment.His son says he's pretty much a pro at these goodbyes.

Col. Dunton will also miss his son leaving on an LDS Mission to Washington. His wife Diane is just trying to focus on each departure one at a time. Today she's focused on her husband.

"It's emotional. We've had good days and bad days, but today is the day," she said.

This group of soldiers will first head to Fort Benning, Georgia where they'll train for a few weeks. Then they'll be off to Kosovo.


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