Jennie Taylor was in Provo when she received the call that there were two men in uniform on her front porch with a message they could only give to her in person.
Almost eight months after she was notified that her husband, North Ogden mayor Maj. Brent Taylor, had died in the line of duty during his fourth deployment in Afghanistan, she returned to Provo to honor her husband along with three other Freedom Award honorees.
Brent Taylor, along with a former astronaut, a German immigrant who hid from Russian soldiers after World War II and a 9/11 first responder were honored at the America’s Freedom Festival at Provo’s Freedom Awards Gala, held Tuesday evening at the Utah Valley Convention Center.
“I love you for mourning with me, because I know I am not mourning alone,” Jennie Taylor said during the awards Tuesday.
Brent Taylor left behind seven children and a legacy of service. While receiving the award, Jennie Taylor thanked the community for their support, thanked God and told how her family has learned the cost of freedom firsthand.
She said service had always been a solemn duty for the family, and that their commitment hasn’t wavered in the months since Brent Taylor’s Nov. 3 death.
“If anything else, it goes on stronger than ever before,” Jennie Taylor said.
Cmdr. Don Lind accepted his award while wearing a NASA flight suit. Lind, who was born in Midvale and served in the Navy, was originally chosen in 1966 to be on the Apollo 20 mission. The mission was later cancelled, and he flew on Spacelab 3 aboard Challenger in 1985.
In a video prior to his award, Lind explained how one of his responsibilities in the space program was seeing if astronauts could fall on the Moon, and then discovering a way to get back up.
Lind thanked teachers who helped him achieve his dream of making it to space.
“The Lord has been very, very good to me, and I express my thanks to him in the strongest words I can think of,” he said while accepting his award.
As a child in Germany after WWII when the Russians came, Christel Sawatze Foreman remembers hiding from unfriendly soldiers in a pile of crusty manure.
“No soldiers would look there,” she said.
Her father was placed in prison, where he died, and Russians burned down their home and farm. Sawatze Foreman said her father had buried food on the property, which they were able to excavate from underneath the rubble.
Her family later immigrated to the United States.
“I feel like I have a second life,” she said.
Sawatze Foreman remembers her mother always having a silent prayer on her lips, and called America a paradise.
“We were free to be free,” Sawatze Foreman said.
Also honored was Tommy Asher, a New York City firefighter who helped pull two survivors out of the rubble after the 9/11 attacks.
Asher retired in 2006 and continues to have health complications from working among the wreckage.
“The truth of the matter is I’m still sick, and I’m one of the lucky ones,” he said.
He spoke in favor of continuing the fund for 9/11 first responders, and said that without it his medication would cost $1,000 a month. He said more than 180 firefighters died due to health complications that have arisen from responding to 9/11.
Asher encouraged attendees to help their neighbors, and remembered the pride of being an American that overwhelmed him after the attacks.
He said he came out of a hole during the rescues to see a sea of hard hats. Those responders were firefighters and police officers, but also electricians, crane operators and line works.
“Please, don’t forget the unsung hero,” he said.