Family members hope a package tucked aboard a Utah Air National Guard tanker that left Salt Lake City for Saudi Arabia Tuesday will find its way to 14 Utah Army National Guard soldiers that have been in the area - and without mail - since Sept. 16.
The absence of mail from home has had a major impact on soldiers' morale as they work in the desert heat, often in areas where there are few other sources of recreation.Family members of the 14 Army National Guard soldiers from the 120th Quartermaster Detachment in American Fork, a water purification team, have told the Deseret News that the soldiers have occasionally been able to get to a telephone. But no mail has gotten through to them since they left their pre-deployment center in Fort Carson, Colo.
Even letters sent to the Utah troops on fax machines through AT&T haven't been received as of Sunday night.
And stories continue about three-hour waiting lines at public telephones where the rate to call home is $9 for the first two minutes.
The package that left Tuesday contained letters and some goodies that were assembled by the Utah soldiers' family members, who learned Monday afternoon that a Utah plane might be able to get the parcel through faster than the standard mail channels.
Richard Boswell, the Guard's family assistance coordinator, carried the package to the plane Tuesday.
Members of the quartermaster detachment, many of them members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have been able to contact an LDS bishop not too far from their work station on the Persian Gulf who has offered his telephone to the soldiers to call home.
Back in Utah, not all of the letters from the Guard members' families have been sent to Saudi Arabia.
At the Guard's annual Governor's Day at Camp Williams Saturday, Lehi resident Lynette Harris gave Gov. Norm Bangerter a letter she helped her 31/2-year-old son Dallin write.
The letter reads:
"Dear Governor Bangerter, Our daddy's name is Andrew Harris. He is a member of the 120th Quartermaster of the Utah National Guard. He is in Saudi Arabia purifying water for our Army troops. We are so proud of our daddy for being able to serve his state and country. We want to ask you to please let our daddy come home in 90 days if you can. We miss him so much and we need him at home. Thank you for reading our letter."
The Guard call-up was for 90 days, but President Bush has the option of extending the active duty tour to 180 days.