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Utahns Home on Leave from Afghanistan

Utahns Home on Leave from Afghanistan

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Tonya Papanikolas Reporting"I'm just so thankful to have him home, even for just two weeks."

A handful of Utah National Guardsmen return home for a two-week leave before they return to Afghanistan again.

A little over 100 National Guard soldiers are in Afghanistan right now. The National Guard gives its men and women a period of leave when they're on a long deployment. Tonya Papanikolas followed one soldier as he returned home.

Major Hal Fitzgerald certainly had a nice homecoming. Local boy scouts lined the road leading to his Lehi house with rows and rows of flags. They also tied yellow ribbons all over his yard. It's their way of saying thank you to a soldier dedicating his time overseas.

Major Hal Fitzgerald arrived home to clapping and big hugs from his family. His 19-year-old daughter was the first to run and greet him.

Stephanie Fitzgerald, Father Home on Leave: "I was really nervous and just anxious and, whenever I saw him, that just kind of clarified for me that he's here and he's okay."

Jean Fitzgerald, Mother: "It's an answer to prayers, continually. He looks good, he looks like he's doing alright."

Major Fitzgerald has spent six months in Afghanistan with the Utah National Guard. His job is to train the Afghan national army on how to conduct security missions.

Major Warren Fitzgerald, Utah National Guard: "We train with them every day, go to formations, go do missions with them, train them to be a stand-alone army."

The Utah soldier says the Afghan people have really impressed him, despite the challenges they face.

Major Fitzgerald: "There's a lot of people that really want a better life for their families, but they're afraid of the Taliban."

For the next two weeks, Fitzgerald will be able to focus on his family, who can't wait to spend time with him.

Stephanie: "Just love him to death. I haven't hugged him for so long."

They have a lot of celebrating to do since they held off Christmas until he returned.

Jean: "All the presents are under the tree, and Grandma postponed Christmas until February."

Stephanie: "I saved all my presents so that we can open them together."

Fitzgerald says he knows leaving again is going to be hard, but he plans to cherish every moment he has with his loved ones. They just want him to know how much they appreciate what he gives.

Stephanie: "I'm really proud of him actually doing it and coming home safe - and being so strong."

Major Fitzgerald told us as he flew home, strangers would walk up to him and thank him for his service.

We saw about six Utah soldiers arrive home today. They are currently halfway through their deployment.

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