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Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News
Vickie Rodgers of Salt Lake enjoys breakfast conversation with Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.

Exhausted after another long day of single parenting, which on Wednesday included getting hundreds of Valentine's Day cards ready to be delivered to her children's classmates, Sara Hendricks settled into bed about midnight.

That's when her valentine arrived in the form of a text message: "It's Valentine's Day here. I hope yours tomorrow will be just as special."

The message originated from Iraq, where Sgt. William Hendricks, her husband, has been stationed since June as a member of the Utah National Guard's 116th Security Force Company.

Sara Hendricks' initial response was one of befuddlement — "You're in Iraq. How is that special?" — but mushiness quickly set in with his next message: "Just know I'm with you."

The Eagle Mountain woman got teary-eyed while recounting the story Thursday morning during a Valentine's Day breakfast for wives and loved ones of Utah's 116th and 145th Security Force companies.

The event was organized by Denise Devynck, founder of Letters to Soldiers program, with help from the Salt Lake City mayor's office. Mayor Ralph Becker joined the soldiers' wives at Hotel Monaco, which provided free banquet space, to share in an ample breakfast donated by Bambara Restaurant.

"On this day, I hope you'll recognize that at lot of us care for you and appreciate what your loved ones are doing," Becker said.

The breakfast had exactly that effect on Hendricks.

"It makes me feel special," she said. "It makes me feel like I'm not just an average citizen today. I'm a soldier's wife."

Jennie Taylor said she was feeling a little guilty Thursday because her husband, Lt. Brent Taylor of the 116th, is home on leave. The entire Taylor family, including children Megan, 2 1/2, and Lincoln, 1, joined in the holiday celebration.

"It has been an honor to have a husband serving in Iraq," Jennie Taylor said. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, I'm so sorry he's over there.' And I want to say, 'Don't apologize. Say thank you. Be proud to be an American.' I'm proud to have my husband over there."

As the Family Readiness Group leader for the 116th Security Force, Jennie Taylor spearheaded the statewide Feed Uncle Sam project to send Christmas packages to Utah's deployed National Guard soldiers.

The effort raised $75,000 worth of donated items and $35,000 cash, Jennie Taylor said. More than 600 care packages were assembled and shipped in November.

"It was literally overwhelming to tears," she said. "There are so many people in the state of Utah who support the National Guard."

Becker called the breakfast an incredible way to spend Valentine's Day.

"It's a chance for me, on behalf of the city, to show our support for (soldiers') families and honor the service that they, as well as their loved ones, are giving our country," he said.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com