U.S. Army
Specialist Joseph Michael Bushling has been missing from Dugway Proving Ground since Sunday May 8, 2011.
It means so much to us. It really does to my wife and I both. This is just a tremendous effort. —Kevin Bushling

DUGWAY — Looking out at the expanse of the West Desert near Dugway, Kevin Bushling gets a pit in his stomach.

He knows finding his son’s body is going to be difficult, especially in such a remote area.

“To think, to expire somewhere so lonely and desolate as this. It’s upsetting," Bushling said.

He and his wife Lisa came to Utah once again from their home state of Arkansas to look for their son, Joseph Bushling.

They’re not alone. Volunteers from the Minnesota-based Jon Francis Foundation are organizing the new search. It is a private search team with horses, dogs, and 4-wheelers.

Volunteers from several nearby states are part of the search efforts, hoping to help the family find their son.

"It's just amazing to me," said the missing soldier's mother. “When I saw all those horse trailers coming in, I just started bawling. It's when reality hit."

"It means so much to us. It really does to my wife and I both. This is just a tremendous effort," Kevin Bushling said.

Army Spc. Joseph Bushling was stationed at Dugway Proving Ground. He was last heard from May 8, 2011, when he left a phone message with another soldier saying he was in his car but had run out of gas while driving in the desert.

Bushling told his friend he was freezing cold and needed help.

No one has seen him, or heard from him since that message.

A week later, the Tooele County search and rescue team found the car Bushling was driving in roughly 65 miles south of Dugway. Later, his Arkansas Razorbacks hat was found.

But there has been no trace of Bushling.

“We're just hoping we can recover Joseph and get some closure,” Kevin Bushling said. “That's all we're asking for.”

Volunteers with the private search team began looking on Friday. They will continue searching Sunday. The team will be going back over some areas that were searched during the five previous searches, and explore some new areas as well.

"They had some great searches earlier, and so we're just trying to follow up and see if we can come up with something," says Janet Wilts, one of the volunteers.

The Bushlings hope this will be the final search for their son, but if not, they will continue looking. They say it’s all they think about.

"We feel like we need closure for us to go for the rest of our lives,” Lisa Bushling said. “We've been married 31 years and we need closure to go on and start doing things others than this."

E-mail: [email protected], Twitter: ksl_alexcabrero