SALT LAKE CITY — On the eve of Election Day, the death of Brent Taylor, North Ogden mayor and major in Utah's National Guard, continued to resonate not only across Utah, but also throughout the nation and even in some corners of the world.
Taylor's slaying during an insider attack as he was training Afghan forces in Kabul made headlines across the U.S., with news outlets reporting Taylor's last public message — a fitting call to action as polling places geared up for Tuesday's election.
Taylor's Oct. 28 message: celebrate freedom and vote — then come together.
"As the USA gets ready to vote in our own election (Tuesday), I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote," Taylor wrote in the Facebook post. "And that whether the Republicans or the Democrats win, that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unite us than divide us. 'United we stand, divided we fall.' God bless America."
In the post, Taylor celebrated Afghans defying the Taliban and voting in Afghan elections. He said it was "beautiful to see over 4 million Afghan men and women brave threats and deadly attacks" to vote in Afghanistan's first parliamentary election in eight years.
Six days later, Taylor and his family would join countless other Americans who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Originally scheduled for Monday evening, Taylor's body was later expected to arrive in Delaware at Dover Air Force Base at 3:20 a.m. Tuesday morning for a "dignified transfer," according to the Utah National Guard.
Since Taylor's death Saturday, Utah leaders including Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox — the state's top election official — spread Taylor's last public message on social media.
Gov. Gary Herbert in an interview Monday lauded Taylor's last post, noting that even under "adverse conditions" Afghans were eager to vote — "something we take for granted."
"That's what he was fighting for," Herbert said. "The people there loved him, and he loved them, in spite of differences. But he knew he was leading them to a better way, and he's saying to us in America, 'Don't forget what made America great.'"
Taylor's family on Sunday issued a statement through Kristy Pack, sister of Taylor's widow, Jennie Taylor, expressing pride in Taylor's "desire to bring freedom to others and to serve his country."
"We are so proud of the way he lived, proud of the way he gave his life," Pack said.
Monday, Taylor was also being remembered by a member of the Afghan forces — a pilot in Afghanistan's Special Mission Wing stationed in Kabul, who sent a letter to Taylor's widow expressing his condolences and calling Taylor an "inspiring man" as well as his "mentor."
"Never stop telling (your children) what a great man their father was," wrote Maj. Abdul Rahman Rahmani. "He was a true patriot. He died on our soil, but he died for the success of freedom and democracy in both of our countries. In his last message … he awakened not only Americans, but the world, to the values of democracy and freedom."
In interviews with the Deseret News on Monday, Rahmani said Taylor "changed my life when I met him," explaining that he only knew Taylor for a short time from several missions they went on together, but that Taylor taught him an important lesson: "Family is not something. It is everything."
Rahmani said he learned that lesson after he had a long conversation with Taylor while they were waiting for a mission after Rahmani said he got angry with his wife and kids during a phone call.
"Let me admit that, before I met Brent, even I did not think that women and men should be treated equally," Rahmani wrote. "Your husband taught me to love my wife Hamida as an equal and treat my children as treasured gifts, to be a better father, to be a better husband, and to be a better man."
Rahmani also wrote he wanted Jennie Taylor to know that "most Afghans feel extreme sorrow and pain over the loss" of Taylor.
"When you think of our country, and his sacrifice, I can't imagine your sorrow or sense of loss, but please don't think that the violent act that took his life is representative of us or our sentiments towards Americans," Rahmani wrote.
In Utah, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski honored Taylor with a moment of silence during a ceremony to honor city employees who have also served in the U.S. military.
"Major Taylor's life was the epitome of public service, a life of purpose and principle," Biskupski said."He was dedicated to the pursuit of democracy, both at home and abroad."
Biskupski noted how in his final post, Taylor "encouraged each of us to put aside the labels which divide us and define the common ground which allows us to build strong and resilient communities."
"Major Mayor Taylor is the perfect example of why we are here today, honoring our city employees who have served," Biskupski said.
Dozens of city employees gathered for Monday's ceremony, which was quiet and somber as the Utah National Guard's 141st Military Intelligence Battalion raised a U.S. flag in front of the Salt Lake City-County Building.
Veteran employees signed a banner that will be hung on the first floor of City Hall through Veterans Day.
Among them was Al Hoskins, a Salt Lake City firefighter, who previously worked as a firefighter for the U.S. Air Force. He retired in 2011 after doing several tours in Iraq.4 comments on this story
Hoskins called the ceremony "great," noting veterans "seldom get the appreciation all veterans deserve." He said Monday's ceremony was needed as Utah's military community was grieving Taylor's death.
"That hit home," Hoskins said of Taylor's killing. "My condolences go out to his wife and kids. I didn't know him but just hearing about him and all the support he's been getting, he was an awesome guy. And that could have happened to any one of us."
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche, Jed Boal