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'Can't say thank you enough,' Herbert says of Utah troops in Iraq, Afghanistan

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 9 2011 3:10 p.m. MDT

Gov. Gary Herbert greets a soldier at Craig Hospital in Afghanistan last week.

Jason Beck, U.s. Army

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said his tour of Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan last week was a reminder of how hard troops there are working and how harsh the conditions are.

The overall morale among the troops was higher than he expected, and for the next few weeks, the governor's office will be sending notes to Utah families whose sons and daughters he met during the trip.

"They feel good knowing that their neighbors are aware of what they're doing," Herbert said of the deployed troops and their families. "You can't say 'thank you' enough."

Employer support of Utah National Guard troops has also been exceptional, though the governor suggested some businesses could do more to help support troops and their families. "We need to have all of the business community step up."

"We've had five soldiers killed from Utah in the last 30 days," he said, speaking of the "unavoidable evil of war." And the Taliban downing of a Chinook helicopter carrying members of the elite SEAL Team 6 while the governor and his party were traveling back to the states, including Utah native Jason Workman, "does give people pause."

Still, the governor said the trip left him more convinced U.S. military action in the Middle East is under good leadership, and that the operations' biggest hazard could be meddling politicians in Washington.

Herbert and fellow Govs. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Steve Beshear of Kentucky spent almost a week on the road. The trip started with Pentagon briefings from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and top military brass. The entourage then traveled to Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany before returning home Sunday.

E-mail: sfidel@desnews.com, Twitter: SteveFidel

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