Utah Families Say Goodbye to Troops

Utah Families Say Goodbye to Troops

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Families across the state are saying goodbye to soldiers as they pack bags for deployment in the nation's war on terrorism.

Every four of Utah's five Coast Guard reservists have been mobilized -- and the fifth has been alerted he is likely to be deployed.

Several tearful farewells, patriotic sendoffs and meetings with soldiers and their families to prepare them for months apart were held throughout Utah in the last week.

Lt. Col. Brad Blackner, spokesman with the Utah Army National Guard, says approximately 1,950 guardsmen have been mobilized or deployed and nearly 1,000 more have been put on alert.

"Percentage wise we've been tapped close to 80 percent," Blackner said. Small communities are feeling it the most, he said.

"In Panguitch more than half of the males in their graduating senior class have been called," Blackner said.

A farewell last week was staged in Richfield for Utah National Guardsmen from the 222nd Field Artillery Battalion, which has members throughout southern Utah. About 500 soldiers will be deployed.

In Richfield, with a population of 6,000, about 3,500 residents packed the Richfield High School gym Wednesday to honor 100 soldiers from the battalion's Company A.

Retired 1st Sgt. Glen Ogden offered advice for the departing soldiers, based on his own service during the Korean War:

"You are writing your legacy," he said. "Serve well, accomplish your mission and return with honor."

Saturday evening, about 100 Army Reserve soldiers from the 854th Quartermaster Company gathered with their families at Logan High School for farewell ceremonies before traveling to Fort Lewis, Wash., for final preparations.

Earlier on Saturday, a ceremony in Ogden, honored nine returning soldiers who served for nine months in Afghanistan. Fifteen soldiers had been mobilized from the Army Reserve 172nd Medical Logistic Battalion, but four of the reservists have volunteered to be redeployed with the more than 230 soldiers activated in January.

On Saturday, 18 soldiers from the 155th Adjutant General Company (postal) met at their home station at Fort Douglas to travel to Fort Lewis, Wash., before deployment. Two nights before the 155th met at Fort Douglas with their families for a "family readiness briefing."

Claude McKinney, spokesman for the Army Reserve's 96th Regional Support Command, said the meetings help soldiers and their families understand the logistics of deployment.

"We bring them together so everyone is perfectly clear on ... how the family who is being left behind is going to be supported," McKinney said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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