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‘I’ve been ready for about nine months’: Soldiers return to Salt Lake from Middle East

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SALT LAKE CITY — “I haven’t been able to sleep for a week,” Kortni Bolden said and laughed.

She has eagerly awaited U.S. Army Sgt. Jonathan Bolden’s return from Afghanistan, and on Thursday, her husband’s camouflage was easy to spot at Salt Lake City International Airport.

“I wasn’t expecting my wife to be at the gate,” Jonathan Bolden joked with feigned annoyance. “She snuck past security.”

Jonathan Bolden and 11 other Utahns in the U.S. Army returned to Salt Lake City after a nine-month deployment to the Middle East.

The couple and the sergeant’s siblings stood in a small circle, tucked away from the bustle of the airport as they celebrated the day. While Kortni Bolden has been tossing and turning for a week, her husband has been thinking of home ever since he left.

Spc. Dean Robertson is welcomed home by his wife, Denise, and their children, Ryan, 9, left, McKenna, 7, Aaron, 4, and Eevealyn, 2, not pictured, at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Thursday, July 19, 2018. Twelve Utahns serving in the U.S. Army Reserve's 478th Human Resources Company's returned home after a nine-month deployment to the Middle East.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Spc. Dean Robertson is welcomed home by his wife, Denise, and their children, Ryan, 9, left, McKenna, 7, Aaron, 4, and Eevealyn, 2, not pictured, at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Thursday, July 19, 2018. Twelve Utahns serving in the U.S. Army Reserve’s 478th Human Resources Company’s returned home after a nine-month deployment to the Middle East.

“I’ve been ready for about nine months,” Jonathan Bolden said.

The returning soldiers serve in the postal platoon of the Army’s 478th Human Resources Company — based at Salt Lake’s Fort Douglas — according to their company’s first sergeant.

While their positions tend to avoid combat, their work takes them to high-risk areas.

“They spent the last nine months all over the Middle East,” said Army 1st Sgt. Jared Baker, who was not deployed. “Our company is a postal company. So we were providing postal support for all the deployed soldiers in the areas we were at.”

Sgt. Nicholas Welty, left, hugs his wife, Sgt. 1st Class Valerie Welty, at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Thursday, July 19, 2018. Both were deployed to different locations with the U.S. Army Reserve's 478th Human Resources Company for nine months in the Middle East and returned home Thursday.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Sgt. Nicholas Welty, left, hugs his wife, Sgt. 1st Class Valerie Welty, at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Thursday, July 19, 2018. Both were deployed to different locations with the U.S. Army Reserve’s 478th Human Resources Company for nine months in the Middle East and returned home Thursday.

Those areas included Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

“So, essentially, running the mail for them,” Baker said.

Army Spc. Erick Govea returned Thursday from Saudi Arabia where he delivered mail, however, his wife, Diana, was not at the airport Thursday morning.

“I’m going to surprise my wife, actually,” Govea said with a grin. The soldier has been able to keep the day of his return under wraps.

“She’s probably going to kill me,” he said with a nervous chuckle.

He said he didn’t feel like it was all really happening — that he was coming home — until he stepped on the plane. His journey home, along with the other returning soldiers, has been a long process. They had to stop at Fort Bliss in Texas prior to the final flight.

Raylene Long, left, and Jeff Long, right, welcome home their daughter, Army Spc. Celsie Long, at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Thursday, July 19, 2018. Twelve Utahns serving in the U.S. Army Reserve's 478th Human Resources Company's returned home after a nine-month deployment to the Middle East.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Raylene Long, left, and Jeff Long, right, welcome home their daughter, Army Spc. Celsie Long, at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Thursday, July 19, 2018. Twelve Utahns serving in the U.S. Army Reserve’s 478th Human Resources Company’s returned home after a nine-month deployment to the Middle East.

Baker was joined by 14 other members of his company, ready to welcome their returning fellow soldiers with mini-American flags in hand.

“As I told my folks here, and it’s great that we’re here to welcome them home,” Baker said, “but really, this is for their families.”

Claps and cheers broke out from the group as camo would break through the throngs of other weary travelers in the airport.

Twenty soldiers in total are returning from this deployment, according to Baker.

“Not all of them are coming through Salt Lake,” Baker said. “We have a detachment of soldiers in Montana. So some of them are returning to their homes in Montana and Idaho.”

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