Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, told the Senate this week that a Marine from Utah killed in the Persian Gulf war last week is "an American hero."

Garn praised the late Lance Cpl. Dion James Stephenson of Bountiful as a "paragon of patriotism and a symbol of the American spirit and our commitment to freedom."He also praised Stephenson's parents for expressing support for the war and deep patriotism, despite their grief.

Garn said the day after Stephenson was killed, the young Marine's father, Jim, called his office. "The message he wanted conveyed around the world is that his son did not die in vain.

"I rise here today on this Senate floor to declare that message to the Congress. Dion J. Stephenson did not die in vain. He gave his life for a just cause," Garn said.

The senator added that Jim Stephenson said his son loved America more than anything except God, and recalled that his son said that as Americans, "We allow ourselves to become too complacent. We're fat, dumb and happy and aren't aware of how badly some people have it."

Garn said, "He believed with all of his heart that as a U.S. Marine involved in freeing Kuwait, he was fighting to free a people whose country had been taken over by a tyrant. . .. He said he was 110 percent behind the president and our national effort."

He added, "Lance Cpl. Stephenson was the epitome of a proud American. He held our values dear to the tragic end of his life. . ..

"I pay tribute to Dion for his love of life, his devotion to God and the abiding principles of our great nation, and most of all, for his grand sacrifice and example of bravery. His devotion to his family's principles could not have been more greatly tested."

Hatch also honored Stephenson's parents for spreading the message that their son did not die in vain. "We honor you for your unparalleled patriotism at a time of personal tragedy."