Local soldier welcomed home from Kuwait
When her husband, Sgt. Donald Utz, returned from deployment in Kuwait in August, Kayla Utz surprised him by running a welcome banner across the front of their house in Milaca, above the front door.
Kuwait was Donald Utz’s second term of deployment since he signed up to join the military in 2007, when he was 17.
Utz’ first deployment had been in Afghanistan, from July of 2013 to June of 2014. While there he worked on what are called recovery missions.
“He would go in and get the tanks that weren’t able to be driven,” Kayla Utz said.
Kayla and Donald Utz have been together since 2008, and they have one daughter, Rian.
During her husband’s periods overseas, Kayla Utz says she makes it a priority to “stay strong.”
“You can’t have everybody see you be rough around the edges,” Utz said, because word could get back to Donald and cause him to worry unnecessarily.
Returns home require some adjustment, too, as Kayla and Donald once again divvy up household and parenting responsibilities Kayla has been handling herself in his absence.
“We both have to work together,” she said.
Of course, Kayla Utz was still “ecstatic” for Donald to return home in August.
“You don’t sleep the night before because you’re so nervous,” she said.
Utz had first thought of putting up a welcome banner for her husband during his first period overseas in Afghanistan, but she says the idea slipped her mind by the time he actually came back. When Donald was deployed again to Kuwait, this time as a fueler in addition to a tank mechanic, following a promotion, she mentioned the idea to her mother, and told her to reminder her of it when the date of Donald’s return home came near.
When the time came, instead of merely reminding her, Kayla says her mother presented her with a finished banner.
“She actually surprised me,” Utz said.
In addition to the banner, the Utzes’ home played host to a welcome party for Donald, who appreciated the banner.
“He loved it,” Kayla Utz said,”absolutely loved it… I had like 15 people at home to give him the first hug (since) they hadn’t seen him in a year.”
The welcome banner can still be seen on the Utz residence because Kayla Utz hasn’t had a ladder on hand to take it down yet.