On Sunday, the town of Emery welcomed home local veteran Merlin Hugh Christiansen after his participation in the June 2015 Honor Flight. The Honor Flight program is a program whereby United States veterans are flown to Washington D.C. to visit memorials built in honor of their service. Grant Nielsen, another local veteran, was part of the March 2015 Honor Flight and also took part in the welcoming event.
A ceremony was held to honor both local heroes. Christiansen and Nielsen were escorted down Main Street by the Patriot Riders and the American Legion. Following a flag ceremony, Merlin’s great grandson Byron Christiansen led the audience in singing the Star-Spangled Banner. A prayer was then offered by Ken Christiansen, Merlin’s son.
The ceremony was conducted by Becky Allred, Merlin’s daughter, who read a short biography of her father and his service. Christiansen served in the United States Navy from August 1943 to December 1945.
“He is a hero because in served in World War II,” Allred stated. “But even more because of the way he lives his life every day.”
Russell Jensen, Emery County American Legion Commander, remarked on Christiansen’s 60 years of continuous service in the American Legion. Following his words, Merlin’s great-granddaughter-in-law, Emery Town Mayor Mistie Christiansen, addressed the children ages 12 and under. She invited them to the front of the audience and helped them understand why veterans are honored. The children described veterans as being “awesome” and “nice.” When asked what they would need to become a Veteran, they answered with “bravery, heart, mind and hard work.” The mayor encouraged the children to “never ever disrespect [veterans] or disrespect the flag they fought for.”
After the mayor’s remarks, Sgt. Chase White of the National Guard and Senator David Hinkins both reminded those in attendance that “freedom isn’t free” and extended their gratitude to veterans and fallen troops who have sacrificed for the United States of America.
To conclude the speaking, Nielsen and Christiansen each took a chance to speak. Nielsen shared some of his experiences from serving from 1944-1946, including the opportunity he had to watch the Japanese sign the peace treaty in Tokyo Bay. Christiansen then shared his experience with the Honor Flight. One moment that stood out to him was the opportunity to raise and lower the flag at Fort McHenry where the Star-Spangled Banner was written.
To wrap up the event, Lance Wright performed “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” with voice and ukulele and the program ended with a prayer by Jed, Merlin’s son-in-law.