Staff Sgt. Cortny Barton ran from her airplane, through the terminal and down the escalator into the arms of her two children at Salt Lake City International Airport.
Barton, a 25-year-old Riverton resident, was one of about 25 Utah Army National Guard soldiers who returned home Friday from a 10-month deployment in Afghanistan.
“Did they have cactuses?” Barton’s 6-year-old son, Wyatt Perry, asked his mother a few minutes after her arrival.
“No, they didn’t have any cactus,” she replied. “They didn’t even have any trees.”
The soldiers belong to the 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. They operated and defended a base in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. They arrived at Camp Shelby, Miss., last week.
Lt. Col. Hank McIntire, a spokesman for the Utah National Guard, said the 204th did not suffer any casualties, though a handful of soldiers remain at Camp Shelby for minor medical issues.
McIntire said about 200 Utah National Guard soldiers remain deployed, primarily in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Among those who held welcoming signs and cheered as the soldiers came down the escalator was the family of Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Baum. In civilian life, he’s a firefighter in Spanish Fork. His mother, Karma Baum, said her son’s street was lined with American Flags on Friday and a Spanish Fork fire truck would be there, too, to welcome him home.
But Ryan Baum’s oldest son was absent Friday. He left Monday for a LDS Church mission in Chicago.
“It’s hard for a grown man to leave his family — a wife and four sons,” Karma Baum said.