Gov. Gary Herbert, Legislature honor fallen servicemen

Published: Friday, Feb. 25 2011 4:49 p.m. MST

Jason and Jennifer Schrader with their children children Shawn and Sahara and Army Ranger Brandon Kramer, right, mourn Jennifer and Brandon's fallen soldier Aaron Kramer (Brondon's twin), during a moment of silence at the Utah Legislature Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, for families of Utah's seven fallen soldiers, who died in service during 2010.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The cacophony that typically fills the House chamber as bills are debated at the Legislature was displaced by silence as the families of Utah servicemen killed during 2010 stood before lawmakers.

The visit was part of a tribute that included citations read in both the House and Senate, and a private visit the families had with Gov. Gary R. Herbert.

"Seven sons — seven brave and courageous men — who laid down their lives in service to this country," said Rep. Ryan D. Wilcox, R-Weber County, as he introduced the families, his remarks halted by emotion. "Today they are not only your sons, they are our sons, too."

The chamber was no quieter during a moment of silence that followed the reading of a citation that honored the Utahns killed last year, all in Afghanistan.

In the Senate, Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, was also filled with emotion as families of the fallen soldiers filed into the Senate chamber. "I have tears just thinking about saying these names," he said before reading the names of the seven men.

The service members killed in 2010 are Marine Lance Cpl. Carlos A. Aragon, 19; Army Pfc. Jordan M. Byrd, 19; Army Sgt. Aaron K. Kramer, 22; Marine Lance Cpl. Nigel K. Olsen, 21; Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew G. Wagstaff, 34; Army Capt. Ellery R. Wallace, 33; and Sgt. 1st Class James E. Thode, 45, a member of the Utah National Guard from Farmington, N.M.

Family members said events like the one at the Capitol mean a lot to them. "It's good that people can remember what they have sacrificed and what they have given, and what the ones that are still alive over there, what they are going through," said Rick Kramer, Aaron Kramer's father.

Aaron's twin, Army Sgt. Brandon Kramer, had similar thoughts. "I know when I was over there in Iraq you wonder sometimes if people cared, and you wonder if people are remembering you," the Ranger with the 82nd Airborne said. "Days like today, you know people really do care and people understand the sacrifices that are made.

"It means everything to me to have this done," Aaron's mother, Shannon Kramer, said following the House ceremony. "I think the hardest thing for me is I just don't want my son forgotten, or the sons of anyone in here," she said, motioning to the other families with the group.

She said the community around their house didn't have a lot of awareness of the sacrifices that were being made before Aaron was killed in Afghanistan. "Then suddenly it brought a whole group together, and the outpouring of love that they've shown for us, and the fundraising they're doing for a special memorial planned for Aaron has just been incredible."

Five months after Aaron was killed on Sept. 16, "We still have to this day strangers that will drive up to the house and ring the doorbell and say 'thank you.'"

Olsen's mother, Kim Olsen, said she was grateful to the governor and the Legislature for remembering the fallen sons, "and to remember what they stood for and the honor they deserve."

"Every one of us would trade all of these awards and Purple Hearts and honors to have our sons back, but that's not an option. So we are grateful that people remember."

E-mail: sfidel@desnews.com Twitter: SteveFidel

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