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Utah soldiers return from Afghanistan

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Posted at 5:30 PM, Apr 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-13 00:27:51-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Staff Sgt. Gregory Herrera returned to Utah after an 11-month deployment, and for the Herrera family it was 11 months of constant worry.

In 2007, they lost Greg’s cousin, Rocky Herrera; it's a loss that's changed the military family forever.

“Every time you'd hear on the news someone got killed in Afghanistan, it just made you sick,” said Johnny Herrera, Greg Herrera’s father.

Saturday, the Herrera's and other friends and family welcomed home Greg Herrera, Levi Brandon and Anthony Wolfe. The three had been serving under a military transportation division detachment since May of 2013.

“We take great pride in being Americans and doing our part for our country,” said Staff Sgt. Gregory Herrera.

Staff Sgt. Herrera comes from a large military family; a family that has sacrificed for the country now for generations.

“My grandpa served in World War II, several uncles in Vietnam, my cousin was obviously in the Afghanistan campaign early on,” Herrera said.

Herrera is a first cousin of Rocky Herrera, who was killed in action August 29, 2007 in Afghanistan.

“Yea it definitely crossed my mind being that it was my first cousin that passed away, but I was in a pretty safe environment, so I was fortunate to return, but he was definitely on my mind the whole time I was gone,” Herrera said.

It's a loss that makes this hug that much more special, a welcome home hug Johnny’s brother never got from his son.

“He was our nephew and we couldn’t have gone through that again, so we thank the lord he’s home safe,” Johnny Herrera said. “That’s always in the back of your mind, it could happen to him. You're just praying it doesn't happen to yours.”

Recently, a local Boy Scout began a campaign to get Parkview Elementary School, where Rocky Herrera attended grade school before becoming a soldier, named after the hero. His cousin Greg said he hopes the elementary school’s name will be changed to honor his cousin. He said that would be an incredible way to honor the hero.