Utahns saw the largest deployment of soldiers from the state this week and also got word of the first battle fatality in Operation Desert Storm.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dion James Stephenson, 22, of Bountiful, was one of 11 Marines killed Wednesday in a ground battle with Iraqi troops near the Kuwait/Saudi Arabian border.Stephenson's younger brother, Shaun, is also a Marine stationed in the Persian Gulf and is expected to be able to accompany his brother's body home.
Jim Stephenson, Dion's father and a former Marine who served in Vietnam, said his son backed his military leaders and believed he was fighting for the Kuwaiti people. "My son did not die in vain. People who voted for this war do not need to feel guilty. They did the right thing. We totally support them. My son did too."
Another Utahn, Capt. Michael L. Chinburg, who was an F-16 pilot, died in a non-combat accident.
No Utahns have been officially listed as missing in action.
The news of the first Utah battle fatality came as about 708 members of the Utah Army National Guard's 1457th Engineer Battalion were arriving in Germany after leaving the state Monday. The 1457th activation is the largest in the state and affected more communities than any other to date. About 650 Army reservists from Utah with the 328th General Hospital are also in Germany.
Also called to active during the week were about 110 members of the Army National Guard's 244th Personnel Services Company at Fort Douglas, 16 health-care specialists from the Navy Reserve and five members of the Utah Air National Guard's 169th Electronic Security Squadron in Salt Lake City.
Four members of the Air Guard squadron activated have been overseas since last summer on a voluntary status.