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Kevin Bushling marked his oldest son's 27th birthday last week at home, curtains closed, reflecting on happier times. Now he's bracing for a Father's Day spent believing both his boys are dead the youngest by suicide last year and the other, an Army soldier, missing for more than a month in the remote Utah desert.
Authorities were planning to search again Sunday for Army Spc. Joseph Bushling, who disappeared May 8 from the U.S. Army's Dugway Proving Ground after telephoning a fellow soldier to tell him he was out of gas, cold and walking without shoes, according to a sheriff's document.
The Dugway site was established in 1942 to study chemical and biological warfare and covers nearly 800,000 acres in the desert along the Nevada border. About 850 people live on the isolated base.
Bushling's father fears the worst that his son died of exposure or possibly that he stumbled upon unexploded munitions or even mustard gas. He fears the Army may be hiding something. Dugway officials deny any such assertion.
"I am glad they are still searching," Kevin Bushling said from his home in Russellville, Ark. He said he was shocked to learn several weeks ago that the search had been called off but is pleased with the resumption.
"At this point, I've come to the conclusion if they don't find him, I'll have to deal with the fact he's out there and I have to give up. I can't live my life every day waiting for the phone to ring," Bushling said.
The Tooele County Sheriff's Office and Dugway officials will conduct a ground and aerial search with help from a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter on Sunday.
Sheriff's Lt. Herman Herrera said authorities have received no new clues since recovering the soldier's borrowed vehicle and his Arkansas Razorbacks baseball cap last month off Army property. But he said there's a chance searchers missed something in the rugged mountainous terrain.
Herrera said authorities concentrated their search in an area between a locked gate on the northwest corner of Dugway and a site about six miles from where the vehicle was found.
A vehicle matching the description of one Bushling had borrowed was seen leaving Dugway's main gate at 3:45 a.m. on May 8 70 miles from where searchers eventually found the car.
Kevin Bushling said his eldest son had a tough year following a recent divorce and last year's suicide of his younger brother, but he also was looking forward to a new post in Texas and a career as a nurse. He had been working as an emergency medical technician at Dugway and was scheduled to go to Colorado's Fort Carson on the very day he vanished.