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Utah National Guard members return home from Middle East

Friends and family members held signs as they awaited their loved ones' arrival on Tuesday, April 9, 2018. Photo: Mary Richards

SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 100 Utah National Guard members are back home, greeted with laughter, tears, hugs and kisses after a 10-month deployment to the Middle East.

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Members of the Utah National Guard’s “Big Red” unit return home from a 10-month deployment on April 9, 2019. Photo: Mary Richards

The 1st Battalion, 145th Field Artillery of the Utah National Guard, Utah’s oldest military unit and also known as “Big Red,” arrived Tuesday morning after serving in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve.

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The Hinton family’s t-shirts celebrate Sgt. Todd Hinton’s status as a new grandfather. Photo: Mary Richards

Members of the Hinton family awaited the arrival at Wright Air Base in Salt Lake City wearing t-shirts with a definite theme: best dad, best husband, and best grandpa – because Sgt. Todd Hinton is a new grandpa.

“Brand new little grandbaby, seven months old, I think,” Hinton said. “I think he likes me.”

His wife, Jenifer Hinton, says this fourth deployment was harder than her husband’s previous ones in a way because her four kids are grown and out of the house now.

“I thought it was hard when they were babies. I thought it was rough to take care of them. But it’s actually been more sad to be alone,” she said.

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Children hold up signs to welcome their family members home. Photo: Mary Richards

She says her husband is done with deployments.

“This is his fourth and final,” Jenifer Hinton said.

“Happy to have it done, and I’ll be ready to go again in four more years,” Todd Hinton joked.

“Stop it!” his wife answered as they both laughed.

Utah National Guard

David Perkins is greeted by his mother and other family members as his unit returns from a 10-month deployment to the Middle East. Photo: Mary Richards

David Perkins returned from his first deployment, following in the steps of his brother, who also serves his country.

“He’s with a medical unit. He has been deployed before. And I got a brother-in-law who used to be in the National Guard. He was deployed to Iraq as well,” he said.

His mother, Mary, said her understanding was that his mission was “routine.”

“He couldn’t tell us, so we really don’t know,” she said. “Once in a while, he’d show us pictures of desert and more desert.”

Utah National Guard

Family members and friends gather, holding signs and banners, as the “Big Red” unit returned home to Utah. Photo: Mary Richards

Many Guard members talked about the need to adjust to life back in Utah, but they did mention one thing that is different here: the weather.

“We spent most of our time in the UAE [United Arab Emirates],” David Perkins said. “Not only was it hot, it was sea level and humid.”

“We left 91 degrees and got here at 58 degrees, so it’s a little cold,” Todd Hinton observed. “But it’s been as high as 127 degrees. So we’re going to get acclimatized and get back to work and start our lives again.”

Hinton added he and his fellow soldiers have much to be thankful for.

“It’s always good to come home after a long deployment,” he said. “And we all came home safe. That’s the important thing… we’re glad our prayers have been answered.”