DRAPER — Gov. Gary Herbert added a stop at the Utah National Guard headquarters to a schedule filled with visits to state employee workplaces Monday following the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden at the hands of the U.S. military.
"We need to be vigilant. This closes maybe a chapter in the war on terror, but we've got other chapters yet to be written," Herbert told an auditorium filled with soldiers. "Utah, as always, will be at the forefront of that effort. So thank you for your service."
The governor ended his address by saluting the men and women dressed in camouflage fatigues to hear their commander in chief. Afterward, he spent time shaking hands and talking with a number of soldiers in the facility's gym.
"It was a pleasure," Utah Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Tai P. Ho'o said of seeing the governor. Ho'o said Herbert's visit added to the morale boost that resulted from the successful operation against bin Laden in Pakistan by U.S. Navy Seals.
"We weren't there but we certainly rejoice in their efforts and are proud of what they accomplished," Ho'o said. "It's a great day to be in Draper. It's a great day to be in the Army National Guard."
Utah Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Amy Barker's birthday falls on Sept. 10, the day before the 2001 attacks against the United States masterminded by bin Laden.
"It's always been really hard for me," she said, of being reminded over the past decade of the loss and pain associated with the attacks. This year, thanks to the demise of bin Laden, Barker's looking forward to a real celebration.
"It really brings it home that yes, we have accomplished something" promised early in the war on terror, she said of the successful operation against the terrorist leader.
Barker said she appreciated the governor's show of support Monday. "I was so surprised to hear he was coming," she said.
Herbert described for the troops his own mixed emotions when his security staff told him during a family gathering in Orem what had happened to bin Laden.
"I didn't know whether to cheer or have a collective sigh of relief," the governor said. "It was not one of euphoria. I think it was more a subdued sigh of relief" that the "poster person for this war on terror" was gone.
"America has won with what's happened over the last 24 hours. Maybe just as importantly, freedom and liberty has won," Herbert said, citing increased interest in those concepts throughout the world.
"You as the military are out there sharing that message with the people of the world and people are listening," the governor said. "We appreciate the work you have done and are doing. It's an important day for us in America."
Among those listening to the governor's words were several Utah Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter pilots. One of two helicopters that flew American troops into the compound when bin Laden was hiding stalled and was blown up.
"It sounds like it went maybe not exactly as planned, but it definitely went well," Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brady Cloward said. "It sounds like they had a hiccup and they executed all their actions the way they should have."
Cloward said, "it's probably pretty sad" to have to destroy a helicopter. "I'm sure based on that mission they decided that was the best thing to do."
Capt. Jeremy Tannahill said while "last night was amazing," he realized arriving at work Monday that there's still plenty of work ahead in the war on terror.
"Looking at the flight schedule, the pilots we have to train — it hits real hard that it's not even close to over," Tannahill said.
A Utah soldier who carried Saddam Hussein's boots out from the "spider hole" where the former Iraqi president was captured said news of bin Laden's death has "re-motivated" American troops.
"Everyone I talk to is very excited about the news as it brings some degree of closure to perhaps the largest chapter in the war on terror," Utah Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason Bulkley said in an email interview from Iraq, where he has been redeployed.
Iraqis, he said, have been congratulatory.
"I have been given high-fives … energetic handshakes, and sincere words of excitement and elation," Bulkley wrote. "I think for them, this news gives them real hope and optimism for the future, something they desperately need during this time of transition."
Layne Morris, a Special Forces solider who was wounded in Afghanistan, said he doesn't blame bin Laden entirely for his severed optic nerve but takes satisfaction in his death.
"I do. I guess a small part of that is personal," Morris, now director of community preservation in West Valley City, said. "But for me, it's for my country."
BYU history professor Mark Choate, who specializes in the Middle East, called bin Laden’s death “symbolic.”
“This brings validity to the United States in that we do what we commit to do,” he said. “No longer can he be seen as standing up to the west and standing up to the United States and getting away with these acts of murder and assassination and terrorism.”
Contributing: Steve Fidel, Andrew Adams