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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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7/14/2013 6:01:00 AM
Returning heroes: Prescott welcomes 2 National Guard members home after yearlong deployment in Afghanistan
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier
Clint Handley and Mark Johnson from the City of Prescott�s Field and Facilities Department recently returned from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan with their National Guard unit.  The city threw a welcome-home barbecue in their honor on Thursday afternoon in Prescott.
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier
Clint Handley and Mark Johnson from the City of Prescott�s Field and Facilities Department recently returned from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan with their National Guard unit. The city threw a welcome-home barbecue in their honor on Thursday afternoon in Prescott.

Cindy Barks
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - The drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan became up-close and personal for two Prescott men during a recent yearlong deployment with the Army National Guard.

Clint Handley and Mark Johnson - both employees with the City of Prescott's Field and Facilities Department - were welcomed back to their jobs this week with a city barbecue and reception.

As members of the 258th Engineer Company with the Arizona Army National Guard, Handley and Johnson were gone for about a year, and spent about 10 months of that in eastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan.

Their job: Demolition of military bases in Afghanistan - all in preparation for the withdrawal of American troops in 2014.

"The bases are closing, and we had to tear everything down," Johnson said. "We hauled a lot of it off, and we buried a lot."

Added Handley: "We were taking everything down - retaining walls, buildings."

The goal was to prepare the bases so remaining U.S. troops could pull back to other locations, Handley said.

A July 11 article in the U.S. Armed Forces' publication, "Stars and Stripes," explained that international forces are "leaving bases, often bulldozing them rather than turning them over to Afghans, who are not always able to maintain the outposts."

International combat troops have a Dec. 31, 2014, deadline for leaving Afghanistan, the article added.

During the 258th Company's mission, Handley spent much of his time operating heavy equipment, and he said the working conditions were often grueling.

"A couple of convoys were for 72 hours - just to get to where you're going," Handley said. "At times, it wasn't all roses."

In fact, the months in Afghanistan gave Handley a unique perspective. "It's definitely a different experience," he said of living and working in Afghanistan. "It teaches you not to take things for granted."

For nearly a year, Handley said he depended on the Internet to keep tabs on the seven children he and his wife Shanna have in their combined family.

"I missed an eight-grade graduation and a high school graduation," said Handley, a Prescott native and a 1999 graduate of Prescott High School.

Even so, he said he was able to communicate with his family via Skype and Facebook, which he said was "a lifesaver."

"You lose out on everyday interaction, but you can still be part of things," Handley said. "As far as I could be there, I was there."

Several of the men's family members were on hand for the city reception, and two of Handley's daughters, Ana and Krysta, sang of being the "daughter of a military man" in the Jessie James song, "Military Man."

With several days of city work behind him, Handley was obviously happy to be back to his everyday routine.

"It feels awesome to be back with the family and to just know there are not people out there looking for you," he said.

For Johnson, the recent deployment was his second time in Afghanistan. He spent 13 months in 2007/2008 along the country's western border near Iran. Although he served in the infantry in the first deployment, Johnson said he volunteered to serve with the engineering company for the recent deployment.

The men left Prescott in June 2012, and returned about a year later.

During that time, Prescott Field and Facilities Director Stephanie Miller said the city covered Handley and Johnson's duties with a temporary worker and overtime by other employees.

"Basically, a lot of people stepped up and helped out," Miller said, adding, "We're glad (Handley and Johnson) are back. We've been limping along as best we can."

Both men emphasized that city officials had been helpful with the deployment.

"They've been real, real good about working with us," Johnson said, adding that the city help had extended to the Guard members' weekend work and training, as well as the deployment.

Mayor Marlin Kuykendall commended the men's service. "What a great day," he said, adding that the city had been engulfed recently in mourning over the June 30 death of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters.

"But today, it's a celebration," Kuykendall said of Handley and Johnson's return. "Welcome home."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Article comment by: J G

Look at the dozens of videos on Youtube where police misconduct is filmed.
Check out then take it from there.
These are NOT isolated actions. They are routine.

Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Article comment by: Steve Spenser

I was gonna type something but its just a waste of time to go all out and say what I want to say... this will never "change" cops are out of control and seem to always make problems worse, then the "system" backs them up and places them on "paid "paid administrated leave"... its beyond out of control I wish americans could all come together and get rid of these weapon equiped scumbags.

Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Article comment by: Sal Addin

The US invasion and occupation of Iraq is a war crime.
Those involved from W. Bush / Cheney to the troops who violated their oaths to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution must be charged with war crimes.
The Unconstitutional Undeclared wars of choice are a black stain on the national fabric.
The 300,000 killed including 70,000 women and children under 10 yrs old will forever be remembered.
These men are not heroes. They serve themselves. They are paid blood money.
True heroes stand for ethics and morality.
The hundreds of thousands who died and were/ are being wounded died and are crippled for nothing. These mercenaries did not improve the global situation rather the opposite.

Posted: Monday, July 15, 2013
Article comment by: S A

How are these actions "serving" the nation?
What has been accomplished? Disaster.
Every life and limb has been wasted for nothing!
Now the US led imperial forces limp away having made the region and world more unstable.
These are mercenary imperial forces that dishonor the Constitution and what this nation was founded upon. Obey your oath!

Posted: Monday, July 15, 2013
Article comment by: Trista Dunbar

Welcome home. Thank you for your service and commitment. I have had other family friends who have been deployed to Iraq through the guard and I have seen up close the sacrifices that both you and your families make to serve our country. Thank you for making that sacrifice.

Posted: Monday, July 15, 2013
Article comment by: Richard Kramer

The real heroes are people like Cpl. Manning and Edward Snowden who stand up for what is going on in the name of "fighting terrorism".
Those who fail to keep their oaths to protect and defend the constitution of the USA by participating in UNCONSTITUTIONAL UNDECLARED "wars", are cowards.

Posted: Monday, July 15, 2013
Article comment by: Justan Azgal

@ reality hits you hard bro
Are you not getting enough attention for whatever 'heroic' act you may have achieved in the past? Because that sure seems to be your goal here - attention.
Twice that I can tell you have spewed your venom about heroism toward 2 of the most heroic 'jobs' this country offers. You have certainly told us what you think is NOT a hero, yet you have not clarified what (in your mind) IS a hero.
Or maybe there is no such thing as a hero in your life.
Sad, just sad.

Posted: Monday, July 15, 2013
Article comment by: J. Anderson

Welcome Home! Thank You for Your Service!

Posted: Sunday, July 14, 2013
Article comment by: @really hits you hard

It sounds like you may have some misdirected anger. First of all, anyone, who chooses to put their life in jeopardy, protecting another life, is a hero. At least to most of us, and they should be honored and respected as such.
Working at a retail store, sitting behind a desk, taking movie tickets stubs and saying "theatre 9 to your left", is doing their job. Putting a gun in your hand, going through extensive training to learn to protect and defend yourselves and others is a completely different thing.
I am not, nor was I ever in the military, but I recognize bravery when I see it.
You're wrong need to go re-think your life.

Posted: Sunday, July 14, 2013
Article comment by: Dan Pilgrim

Welcome home and we thank both of you for your service! Glad you are home safely our beloved cousin Clinton! Dan & Tami Pilgrim

Posted: Sunday, July 14, 2013
Article comment by: Grateful Citizen

Thank you for your service & welcome home!

Posted: Sunday, July 14, 2013
Article comment by: reality hits you hard bro

i wanted to scream when i started to read this article.These men did what they signed up for they are not heroes, period. When are we as a society gonna get over this. People who sign up for military service and go to duty are not heroes. They are doing what they signed up for, get over the hero worship crap for anyone who does their job. It is getting sad when any person doing a job is a hero.

Posted: Sunday, July 14, 2013
Article comment by: Well Appreciated

Thank you for your service. You are a source of pride for the community.

Posted: Sunday, July 14, 2013
Article comment by: Greene Ken

Thank You men for your service and the work you do. Glad you are home safe and with your families. Welcome home and God Bless!

Posted: Sunday, July 14, 2013
Article comment by: Terri Daniels

Welcome home guys! Thank you for your service.
The smiles say it all.

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