Two Utah National Guard members strolled up to the cash register at Casey's City Lunch after having what may be their last cup of coffee there before shipping out on active duty.
"It's on me guys, I'll see you when you get back," the waitress, Karen Mott, told the pair, who have been called to active duty along with the rest of Mt. Pleasant's 85-member Guard company.Yellow ribbons and American flags hang on the street lights outside along Main Street. The headline on the front page of the local weekly paper announces "Gulf War hits home!" and just about everyone in town is talking about the call-up of the town's National Guard unit.
Casey's is a favorite gathering place in Mt. Pleasant. "This is where people come to talk," said proprietor Casey Larsen. "We wish them all good luck - and their wives, too," he said of the Guard members, who are expected to leave town as a group Monday afternoon.
"They've been coming in to say goodbye. I've been fighting back tears all day," Mott said.
The most recent call-up from the Utah National Guard takes several hundred more soldiers from along the Wasatch Front but is the first to draw large numbers from some of Utah's more isolated communities, like Mt. Pleasant, Moroni, Nephi, Blanding and Price.
It is an understatement to say the central Utah community supports its local Guard members and only a slight overstatement to say the Guard unit is the community.
The biggest block of Mt. Pleasant's Guard members work in the area coal mines.
Mayor Chelsey Christensen retired just two years ago after spending 42 years in the Guard in Mt. Pleasant. He knows the armory and procedures so well that the officers in charge were asking him what to do when their mobilization began Thursday.
Sanpete County Sheriff Wallace Buchanan spent almost 22 years in the Guard before retiring nine years ago. He was also at the armory Thursday morning as the troops started getting ready, along with a mutual friend, Norman Brunger - also a former Guard member. Brunger had a picture that showed the Mt. Pleasant Guard company mobilizing during World War II when his father was called to active duty.
The company, a combat engineer element of the 1457th Engineer Battalion, was also activated during the Mexican-American War, World War I and the Korean War.
The mayor, sheriff and Brunger all said they would don a uniform and go with the company if they could. Instead, Christensen said he will help keep the armory open for community events like youth basketball. He and Buchanan said they would make themselves available to help the families of Guard members who are leaving.
Buchanan said the community will likely have a more active family support effort than larger cities would - but the small town will also need it more.
The company's initial assignment is to deploy to Germany, but no one expects the group will stay there if hostilities continue in the Persian Gulf.
That feeling was echoed by a woman whose husband and son are one of four such combinations in the company. She expects the group to end up in the Middle East but takes some comfort in knowing the two will be able to keep an eye on each other. Her family has spent the past several months getting ready for a call-up, but that hasn't kept the past several days from being "totally hectic."
An LDS bishop and seminary teacher at the high school has two sons going with the company and a third son who would be going except he is on inactive status with the Guard while serving a church mission in Chile. He said his sons wanted to be together if the company were called up.
Leaving town with the unit will be:
- Four father and son combinations
- Eight sets of brothers
- One-third of the Mt. Pleasant police force and power department (each has three members)
- A City Council member
- Two members of nearby Spring City's City Council