|Mike's yellow mustang will be on display at the Museum of the San Rafael.|
The Emery County Historical Society hosted its annual tribute to the veterans at the Museum of the San Rafael on Nov. 8. To begin the program the flag ceremony was performed by LeRay Huntington and Van Gardner. After the pledge of allegiance, the Huntington Glee Club began their performance of patriotic songs with the song Stout Hearted Men.
Blake Jones, of Huntington, recited the Ragged Ole Flag, after which Dixie Swasey introduced the speaker for the evening. "At the end of August, the American Legion National Convention was held in Salt Lake City. At the convention were members from all over the country and many from other countries. There were about 25,000 people in attendance at the convention," said Swasey.
"While I was in the exhibit hall, I saw a truck being driven in. It was very patriotically decorated and so I went over and talked with the man driving it. He said it was a tribute to his son who had been killed in Afghanistan a year ago. Sylvia and I met later with this man and his wife about this tribute and how we would like them to bring it here for our Veterans Day program. This is a great tribute to his son and he has taken it many places, and I want to thank him for sharing this tribute with us. He has come all the way from Clearfield," concluded Swasey.
Bob Lehmiller began his comments with the statement that he was very proud to be the Gold Star father of Sgt. Michael Robert Lehmiller, a member of the US Army Airborne. "I want to thank all the veterans. I also want to thank the Vietnam veterans and say welcome home. That has been too long coming and I want to say thank you," said Lehmiller.
Lehmiller went on to read a letter from his son that was sent when he was on his way to Iraq. The letter explained his son's feelings about the war on terror and his determination to fight for his country and the rights of everyone in America. The letter stated that the war on terror must be won, and must not be fought here, but on the terrorists turf.
"After 9-11, things changed for Mike. His plans to go to college were altered and he decided to go into the airborne infantry. He loved being a part of a division with such a historic past. He always said 'I love what I do, and I'm good at it.' He went to Iraq first and came home safely," added Lehmiller.
"He chose to reenlist and was deployed to Italy, and from there he was sent to Afghanistan. He was in the 173rd Airborne which was a tough unit. Mike was proud to serve with these men. He told me the war in Afghanistan was harder because the insurgents were hardened by years of war, unlike the insurgents in Iraq who were new to it.
"He had plans to become a ranger when he returned from Afghanistan. He lived life full speed ahead. He had visited many places in America and around the world. He had celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans and New Year's Eve in Times Square. I was privileged to share many of his experiences.
"In his communications with us during his deployment to Afghanistan, Mike expressed many times the soldiers' love for the flag and what it means to this country. It is the belief of our heroes that defending America is a great honor. As they lose their lives defending America, the responsibility is passed on to us to honor their sacrifice," said Lehmiller.
His comments were followed by a moving video of pictures taken in Afghanistan by his son Mike. Many were of the men Mike was serving with and many were of Mike. The video was set to the songs, American Soldier, Some Gave All, and Taps.
Lehmiller went on to talk about the vehicles he had brought for display. The yellow Mustang was ordered in March of 2005, but due to some delays, turned out to be a 2006. It was built five days before Mike was killed in Afghanistan. "Mike never saw his car," said Lehmiller. At first he was not going to go get it, but his wife thought he should.
The dealer led him to a specialty painter, and the idea was born to make this car a tribute to Mike. Inside the car are Mike's medals and his hat. In the rear window is a photo of Mike in Afghanistan, and other items painted on the car are the 173rd Airborne insignia and the Veterans of Foreign Wars sticker that belonged to Mike.
"I decided not to drive the car, so I painted one of my work trucks to tow the car around to the displays. I have taken the car to many events around the country. Last year, we went to a fund raising event in Atlanta, Ga. that was to raise funds for the 173rd to build a memorial. Ft. Benning has given them the property. Around $600,000 was raised. Next year, we will continue touring the US. This is a labor of love for me to take this car to events," concluded Lehmiller.
Joyce Staley noted, "We want to also thank the Emery County Sheriff's Office for the security of the cars while they are here. The sheriff's office assigned an officer, Deputy Mike Jorgensen, as the security officer for the evening."
The poem in the rear window of the Mustang reads:
It is the soldier not the reporter who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier not the poet who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier not the campus organizer who gives us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protestor to burn the flag.