Injured Utah missionary returns home to warm welcome

Posted at 7:59 AM, Apr 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-07 17:16:34-04

SANTA CLARA, Utah - A Utah missionary injured in the Brussels attacks is now home after being in the hospital for more than a week.

Elder Joseph Empey received a very warm welcome home Wednesday, accord to the St. George News.

The 20-year-old flew home to be treated for burns at the University of Utah hospital.

He was one of four missionaries  hurt in the March 22 bombings at the Brussels airport.

Mason Wells, Joseph Empey's mission companion, is still recovering at the U of U hospital. Both have been released from their mission calls.

The Santa Clara police and fire departments escorted Elder Joseph Dresden “Dres” Empey home Wednesday evening. The sirens almost drowned out the cheers from dozens of family and friends, who decked out his home with balloons and signs.

Empey hadn’t set foot in his neighborhood for nearly two years after serving an LDS mission in Paris, France.

“We’re just here to welcome him home and show him how much we love him,” said Nancy Hauk, Empey’s aunt.

Neighbors greeted Empey with lots of hugs, a comfort for the 20-year-old who suffered serious burns in the March 22 bombings at the Brussels Airport. Three other missionaries were also hurt.

“I remember the morning it happened," family friend Brian Hill said. "I was actually watching the news and saw the bombing and I thought, 'What are the odds that Joe was on the train?' I didn’t even think about the airport, just being a missionary and being on the train seemed more logical, and about 5 minutes later, I got a call from the neighbors saying Joe was in the bombing so it’s pretty crazy.”

Empey’s mother, Amber, posted a message on Facebook. She said he was released from the U of U burn unit and would continue medical treatment in St. George.

While he is still in some pain, and needs rest, he couldn’t help but embrace the overwhelming show of support.

“He’s an awesome kid and loved by many, and I don’t think you'll find anyone else like him,” said Justin Morgan, a friend of Empey’s.

His ward bishop, Chad Barker, also wanted to be part of his homecoming.

“I just love him," he said. "Just a great young man, so we just wanted to show him how much we love him and gather the community, neighborhood and the ward around and just be there for him.”

See more from the St. George News here.