Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

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January 1, 2008
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Congressman Heller swears in Commander Heller

It was a family affair on New Year's Day when Navy Lt. Cmdr. Bryan Heller was sworn in as full commander by his older brother, U.S. Rep. Dean Heller.

Cmdr. Heller, 39, flew into Reno on New Year's Eve on leave from duty in Bahrain. The congressman had arranged to give his brother the oath of his new office in Gov. Jim Gibbons' office at the Capitol.

Though military officers who are promoted are usually sworn in by their commanders, Rep. Heller said it's not unusual for Congressmen to swear in officers.

"But it's probably unusual for a brother to swear in a brother," he said.

Cmdr. Heller, noting it was difficult to give a speech to family, many of whom gathered for the ceremony, thanked everyone for coming, especially those who came from California.

"I got you beat," he joked. "I came through 11 time zones."

Then he got serious, expressing appreciation for his wife, Kristi.

"This job would be so much harder, impossible, without the people who work hardest," he said. "The hardest job in the Navy is Navy wife."

Then he presented her with a large bouquet of roses.

"Today is my time in the limelight," he said. "That doesn't happen without a lot of support, including all the guys I work with, who may not get the attention they deserve."

Cmdr. Heller's wife, Kristi, said they'd moved more than 60 times during their marriage, and were living in Carson City to be near his family while her husband was overseas. They have four children, Natascha, 15, Heidi, 13, Josef, 10, and Jakob, 5. The children sang the Seabees song for their father - who is a Seabee, or member of the Navy's Construction Battalion.

Watching were the commander's other two brothers, Mac and Jack, his parents, Jack and Janet, his sister, Tami Jesse, and her husband, Rett, along with Rett's mother, Maizie, and an assortment of children and other relatives

Janet Heller said her sons fought when they were kids, and she never expected to see one giving an oath to another, but added, "I always knew they'd be leaders in whatever they did."

Following a set of swearing-in rules, Rep. Heller had brother-in-law Rett Jesse give the invocation, Mac Heller led the Pledge of Allegiance and mom Janet led the group in the Star Spangled Banner.

Rep. Heller described his brother as an engineer who graduated cum laude from Brigham Young University with a degree in civil engineering. He served on the U.S.S. Georgia, a nuclear submarine and later attended the University of Texas at Austin, getting his masters degree in structural engineering.

Cmdr. Heller is a member of the Society of American Military Engineers and the American Civil Engineers, Rep. Heller said, and added, "I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere."

Rep. Heller said his brother was dedicated to God, family and service to country.

"He's a wonderful brother, great son, wonderful father and great husband," he said.

After Cmdr. Heller swore to reaffirm his pledge to defend the Constitution and bear true faith and allegiance to the same, Kristi Heller and Janet Heller replaced his Lieutenant Commander's epaulettes with those for Commander, after which Jack Heller Sr. brought his son his new Commander's hat.

Bryan Heller said he would be returning to duty in a few weeks, and had no qualms about it.

"Having lived in other parts of the world, we definitely have a country worth defending, and I'm proud to do that," he said.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 881-7351.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jan 2, 2008 01:51AM Published Jan 1, 2008 03:00AM Copyright 2008 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.