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Family of Brent Taylor, North Ogden mayor killed in Afghanistan, honored at Freedom Awards Gala

PROVO — Jennie Taylor has deep roots in Provo. It's where she first met her husband on a blind date. It's where she lived when she was a student at Brigham Young University. It's where she and her husband started their family.

And it's where she received a phone call that two uniformed soldiers were in front of her door to deliver the news that her husband, Utah National Guard Maj. Brent Taylor, had been killed in action during a tour in the Middle East.

Jennie Taylor and her seven children were among those honored at the Freedom Festival Awards Gala Tuesday evening at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo.

Maj. Brent Taylor of the Utah National Guard
Maj. Brent Taylor of the Utah National Guard
Utah National Guard

"I can tell you that our shared commitment to God, family and country did not die the morning Brent died," she said. "If anything else it lives on to be stronger now than ever before."

Taylor, who was serving his second term as North Ogden mayor at the time of his death, was killed in Afghanistan during his fourth deployment to the Middle East.

Earlier this year, in honor of the fallen soldier, President Donald Trump signed a bill to rename the North Ogden Veterans Affairs center to the Major Brent Taylor Vet Center Outstation.

Also among the honorees was Tommy Asher, one of the thousands of first responders who rushed to help after the 9/11 attacks.

The retired New York City firefighter was able to pull two survivors from the wreckage.

Although, it was one of the worst days in the country's history, he said, it was one of his proudest moments of being an American as he saw the community coming together despite their differences.

"If (Jon Stewart) was here right now, I'd give him a big New York hug and a kiss," he said, referring to the comedian's recent plea for support for surviving 9/11 responders. "I am still sick and I'm one of the lucky ones. If I didn't have those funds my medication would cost about a $1,000 a month."

The fund Asher talked about was the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Stewart actively advocated for its expansion in front of a House Judiciary subcommittee this month.

Asher relived his experience when he played himself in Oliver Stone’s 2006 film "World Trade Center."

German World War II survivor Christel Sawatze Foreman and former NASA astronaut Don L. Lind were also honored at the event.

In 1966, Lind was chosen to be in the group of astronauts to venture on Apollo 20. He was involved in previous missions like Apollo 11, and developed the extra-vehicular activity conducted on the moon's surface. Due to budget cuts, the Apollo program ended before Lind could go to the moon, and he was left thinking he'd never fulfill his dream of going to space.

Lind's patience was rewarded when, in 1985, he was able to fly on Spacelab 3 aboard Challenger and was in space for seven days.

In the aftermath of World War II in Germany, Foreman's family farm was torched to the ground by the Red Army, and her father was imprisoned, where he died. As a 10-year-old, Foreman hid with her brother and mother from the Red Army that occupied Germany at the time. They eventually immigrated to the U.S. to find refuge.

She said it was a "wonderful" feeling when she and her family obtained their immigration papers.

When Foreman made it to Los Angeles, she said it was "paradise."

"In my youth, I experienced much hardship during World War II that has made me appreciate what we have now," she said. "(In the U.S.) we have freedom, choice and opportunities."