Utah mom, 300 other soldiers prepare selves, families as they get ready to deploy

Published: Friday, June 18 2010 10:04 p.m. MDT

Three-year-old Sean gets a kiss from his mom, Pfc. Lisa Bradford. She will be deployed to Iraq later this month.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Editor's note: For nearly nine years, Utah servicemen and women have left their families to go to war. Most have returned. This is the first in a two-part series about what it's like to leave and to come home. Tomorrow: What it's like for one military father to be home for Father's Day

LINDON — Pfc. Lisa Bradford will stay in bed a little later than usual this morning. Slowly blinking away sleep while insulated beneath fluffy blankets, she will clutch her young sons closely so she can absorb enough extra snuggles to tide her over for an entire year.

Private Bradford will leave for Iraq before the end of the month with about 300 other citizen-soldiers from the Utah Army National Guard's 141st Military Intelligence Battalion based in Orem. The year-long deployment will more than double the Utah Guard's presence in the Middle East.

Every waking minute is a microcosmic chance for the soldiers of the 141st to shoehorn all sorts of preparation into the precious few days they have left before departure.

The home front

Private Bradford, 34, fully understood what she was getting herself into when she joined the Utah National Guard in November 2008.

"I knew there was a war going on and the possibility of me (deploying) was a pretty good chance," she said. "I knew that there was a chance that I could go, and it ended up happening."

In late 2008, Bradford already knew deployment would mean time away from her two sons, Dylan and Sean, now 5 and 2 years old, respectively. But she had long desired a military experience — she actually signed up for the Air Force at age 19 and had an entry date until her parents found out and persuaded her to withdraw — and by her early 30s the window for enlistment was quickly closing.

Ultimately, it was the support of her husband, Sgt. Jakob Bradford of the Utah National Guard 97th Troop Command, that paved the way for her enlistment.

"My husband said, 'Listen, if it's something you want to do and you feel strongly and passionately about it, you should probably do it now,'" she recalls.

Bradford personally knows the pain of being away from her children — she has two sons who live in Hawaii with her ex-husband. She may not be showing it, but you can bet your bottom dinar that Bradford will seize every remaining chance to enjoy daily life with Dylan and Sean.

"Life is normal, but I know inside and my husband knows inside (what awaits)," Private Bradford said. "Every moment we get we cherish it and we try to take it to the maximum. Any chance I get, any spare time now, I try and incorporate it with my family."

Sgt. Stephen Bryner, a civil engineer from Kaysville, has been in the Utah National Guard for almost 10 years but never deployed abroad. With the departure of the 141st to Iraq he'll bid adieu to a wife and five children, the youngest barely two weeks old.

He doesn't relish leaving his family behind — far from it — but Sergeant Bryner knows greater sacrifices will be exacted from his wife than from him.

"She is going through a lot more than I am right now, so definitely hats off to her," he said. "When I go over there I'll be taken care of, but if my vehicle's broke or something on my house needs to be fixed (back home), that's not going to happen because I'm not here to do it.

"I think there's a lot you can do to prepare your family, but ultimately they are definitely the ones that sacrifice the most."

Keeping in touch

By applying an engineer's thorough thought processes, Bryner began months ago looking for ways to fortify family relationships even from halfway around the world.

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