|Dugway Proving Ground||5140 Valdez Circle, Dugway Utah 84022|
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Army soldier from Browns Valley missing in Utah desert
Army Spc. Joseph Michael Bushling had a tough year after his recent divorce and the 2010 suicide of his younger brother, but was looking forward to a new post in Texas and a career as a nurse. The former Browns Valley resident is missing in Utah's western desert.
His father, Kevin Bushling, had planned a trip this week to see his son, who was stationed at the U.S. Army's remote Dugway Proving Ground. The site was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942 to study chemical and biological warfare and covers 798,214 acres along the Nevada border.
Instead, Bushling will fly from his home in Arkansas to collect his son's things.
"I'm very worried. I really am," Kevin Bushling said Tuesday. "Yesterday was my wife's (Lisa) birthday. He went missing on Mother's Day. It's really been a difficult time."
Bushling, 26, grew up in Browns Valley and attended Marysville High School his freshman and sophomore years from 1998 to 2000 before his family moved to Arkansas. He disappeared May 8 after calling a friend to report he had run out of gas. His vehicle was found Saturday about 60 miles southwest of the facility's main gate. His Arkansas Razorbacks hat was found Monday about six miles from the abandoned car, but searchers have not found anything else.
The effort won't resume until the weekend because many of the search team members are volunteers with regular jobs, and they needed a break after spending up to 12 hours a day for a week roaming the desert and scouring caves, said Wade Mathews, a spokesman for the Tooele County Sheriff's Office.
"They have searched the entire area and haven't gotten any other clues," Mathews said.
Army spokeswoman Paula Thomas said officials have no reason to suspect foul play or that Bushling went absent without leave or AWOL. They offered no other explanation or comment.
She said the military has searched the grounds of its facility three times, using Black Hawk helicopters and unmanned aerial drones.
Kevin Bushling said his son was excited about his visit and life despite his recent divorce and the March 2010 suicide of his younger brother, Jeremy. Joseph Bushling was married to Michelle Marie Parker in 2009, according to Appeal-Democrat records.
"It's been a whole year trying to heal, then this happens," Kevin Bushling said. "It's like it's starting all over. It's been awful."
Kevin and his brother Eric flew to Utah on Wednesday, their father, David Bushling of Yuba City said Thursday.
"They're just trying to do what they can," he said. "There hasn't been much information. It's very disturbing of course. My wife was very close to Joseph and his brother when they lived here."
Kevin Bushling, who worked in the meat department at the Yuba City Raley's before the family moved to Arkansas, said there is no chance his son simply ran off.
"I know my son," he said. "I talk to him every day, sometimes 15 times a day."
A childhood friend, Braydee Beeler, said she still keeps in touch with Joe. "He was a very fun, outgoing guy, who back then could be a little shy," she said.
She said his brother's suicide and his short marriage weighed on Joe.
"He's never been the type that would hurt himself. So, I'm hoping maybe he was feeling overwhelmed by everything that had happened and maybe just needed time alone," she said. "I have been thinking about him all day, every day."
Bushling's Facebook page has dozens of posts from friends and family wishing for his safe return.
Kevin Bushling said his son, who drove an ambulance on the base, planned to return home to Arkansas with him before starting a new assignment with the Army at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio where he planned to become a licensed nurse.
What encourages Kevin Bushling is knowledge that his son spent his first year of service as a medic in South Korea.
"He's pretty dang tough," he said.