The Utah Legislature honored 15 military service members who lost their lives during the last year — including Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, a Marine who was killed in a suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport last August.

Family members of the fallen soldiers were recognized on the House and Senate floor, many of them carrying portraits of their loved ones.

“Now therefore, be it known that the Legislature of the state of Utah expresses its heartfelt sympathies to the families of our fallen military members,” read a citation presented to each soldier’s family. “May the examples of the dedicated service of these brave men serve as examples to all of the commitment of Americans to defending liberty at home and abroad.”

All in the chamber rose to observe a moment of silence.

“I just hope people will remember who we as a people really are,” Deborah Allen told the Deseret News. “Our country is going through some hard times and I think if we start to remember who we are and what really matters — that we have so much in common. ... If we can just pull together and be a united nation of good people, we can really touch the world for good.”

Allen is the mother of 1st Lt. Kenneth Kage Allen who was killed when his F-15 went down in the North Sea. Kage Allen served a two-year mission in Chile for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before joining the Air Force.

Kage Allen and his wife, Hannah, were married in February 2020. He left for the service four days later and died a few months later in June.

“This country’s work is so much more than people’s petty problems. ... We’re just so thankful that they would take the time to do this tribute to the fallen,” Deborah Allen said. “That means a lot to us. We so appreciate that people remember the fallen and their families, who carry that heartache for the rest of their lives.”

“It’s a big hole in our hearts to lose a son, a brother, or uncle,” said Tamara Wharton, whose son, Maj. Mathew Blaze Wharton, was killed last year. “And yet, at the same time, it becomes very real when you see other people who have suffered the same loss in the last year. You see all these families that lost — if it’s a spouse, or if it’s a daddy or a mommy — you know, whomever they lost was an integral part of that family unit. Your heart goes out to them.”

Wharton said she was “really grateful that we were able to do that with the support of the highest officials in the state of Utah. It was phenomenal. Gov. Spencer Cox was just so kind and human. ... You could tell how attached he was.”

Tamara Wharton carries a photo of her late son, Maj. Mathew Blaze Wharton, who served in the Army for 13 years, as members of the Utah House honor fallen Utah military members and their families in the House chamber at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
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“Those that enlist in the service of our country do so freely with the understanding of the inherent risks that service carries,” said Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden. “That doesn’t make that knock on the door any easier. ... In a time where selfishness trumps all other things, these men have chosen to do the opposite, to put the safety and well-being and liberty of their fellow men above their own.”

Before the families left to be recognized in the Senate, House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, took a moment to thank them personally.

“I just want to take the prerogative of the Speaker and express my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to you and your families,” he said. “Your presence here is an honor to us in many ways. There’s really nothing that we can say that will express the depth of our gratitude as a state Legislature. Just know we are very grateful for your service, for your sacrifice and for all that your loved ones have given to our country to help protect the liberties and freedoms we enjoy.”

Honoring service members who have fallen is an annual tradition at the Capitol, but it’s one leaders hope they never have to repeat in future years. Wharton agrees.

“I just pray for peace,” she said.

Utah’s service members who were honored Friday are:

  • Staff Sgt. Jaden Asher Hall, Army
  • Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Harmon, U.S. Army Reserves
  • Spc. Kyle Mecham, Army
  • Maj. Mathew Blaze Wharton, Army
  • Staff Sgt. Paul Olmstead, Utah National Guard
  • Capt. Jason Scott, Utah National Guard
  • Staff Sgt. Jared Simonsen, Army
  • Spc. Charles Dorris, Utah National Guard
  • Staff Sgt. Liam H. McKelvey, Air Force
  • Staff Sgt. Bradley B. Devereaux, Air Force
  • Pfc. Shane Golden, Marine Corps
  • Cpl. Andres Jose Orozco, Marine Corps
  • Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, Marine Corps
  • Theodore Q. Jensen, Navy (Killed at Pearl Harbor in 1941, remains returned to family in 2021)
  • 1st Lt. Kenneth Kage Allen, Air Force (died in 2020)