SALT LAKE CITY — As the body of Utah National Guardsman Maj. Brent Taylor was returned to the U.S. early Tuesday, his wife offered an emotional statement declaring that while the loss of her husband is devastating, she called it a "sacred honor" to know he died for his country.
Taylor's widow, two oldest sons and parents were on hand Tuesday morning as his remains were returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where Jennie Taylor made her first public comments following her husband's death, welcoming "Maj. Brent Russell Taylor back onto U.S. soil and back home to the land he has always loved so dearly."
"To call it a sobering event would be an unspeakable understatement," she said. "To say that our hearts are anything but shattered would be nothing short of true deceit. And yet, to deny the sacred honor that it is to stand that close to some of the freshest blood that has been spilt for our country would be absolute blasphemy."
"I personally cannot yet find words adequate to tell you all that I feel as I stand here this morning by the dawn's early light," she said. "And so I echo the words that someone recently shared with me.
"Brent may have died on Afghan soil, but he died for the success of freedom and democracy in both of our countries," Taylor said. "Just two weeks before Brent was killed in action, on the day before Afghanistan hosted its first parliamentary election in eight years, there was an incident that took the life of one of my husband's dearest Afghan military colleagues and friends — a young lieutenant who at the age of 22 had recently finished his officer training," she explained. "Brent wrote, 'The strong turnout at that election, despite the attacks and challenges, was a success for the long-suffering people of Afghanistan and for the cause of human freedom. I am proud of brave U.S. and Afghan soldiers I serve with. Many American, NATO and Afghan troops have died to make moments like this election possible.'
"It seems only fitting that Brent, who in death now represents something so much greater than any of our own individual lives, has come home to U.S. soil in a flag-draped casket on our Election Day," she said.
"It is a timeless and cherished honor to serve in our country's armed services," Taylor said. "That honor has been Brent's since he served in the Utah National Guard for the past 15 years and it has been mine for just as long since I have proudly stood by his side. And it has been and will continue to be the great honor of our seven children for the rest of their lives and I pray for many generations to come.
"The price of freedom surely feels incredibly high to all those of us who know and love our individual soldier," she said. "But the value of freedom is immeasurable to all those who know and love America and all that she represents."
Sharing the comments her husband made before his death and that have now been widely shared on social media, she said, "Brent himself put it best just days ago when he implored of us all, 'I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote. And whether the Republicans or the Democrats win, I hope that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unites us than divides us. May God forever bless America.'"
In addition to his National Guard service, Taylor was first elected to North Ogden's City Council and then as mayor. He was a father of seven children — four boys and three girls ranging from 13 years old to 11 months.
In Utah, to North Ogden City Recorder Annette Spendlove, the news of Taylor's death while serving in Afghanistan was more than the death of a respected colleague, it was the loss of a surrogate son. They met more than a decade ago when Taylor was first elected to the City Council when she said the city was deeply divided politically.
"I have seven (sons) and he was my eighth," she said. "He came in when our community was torn apart and he brought this community together."
"He brought our employees together (and) he just has a knack for doing those kinds of things," she said. "He could do that because he truly loved people and truly loved this community."
Upon initially learning of Taylor's tragic death at the hands of a member of the Afghan security forces who opened fire at a Kabul Military Training Center on Saturday afternoon, she first thought it was a terrible dream.
"I turned on the TV (late Friday evening) and fell asleep and woke up about 2 o'clock (Saturday morning)," she explained. "There was a news alert on that said an American soldier was killed in Afghanistan. I just thought in my mind that it couldn't be (Maj. Taylor). Then I found out later that day."
Noting that making the ultimate sacrifice can be part of a soldier's military service, as she watched Taylor leave on multiple deployments she tried to avoid thinking of the worst-case scenario.
"It was always in the back of our minds," Spendlove said about her city government colleagues who worked with Taylor. "We just put it in the back of our minds never thinking it would really happen."
Now with the reality setting in, she said the community can use Taylor's example of service to honor his memory in the years to come.
"(We can honor him) by donating time, by volunteering, by treating people with kindness and respect," she said. "That's what he did was treat people with respect."
She said that Taylor, who was only 39 when he died, leaves behind a strong legacy of community service and devotion to family as well as the nation.
"It's hard to lose someone who still had so much to do," Spendlove said. "What he was doing was for all of us. There will always be a special place for him in my heart."2 comments on this story
Since his deployment in January, the city's Washington Boulevard has been adorned with a banner hanging in his honor along with more than 20 similar banners recognizing local residents who are currently serving overseas military missions. A man of humility, she said he wasn't particularly fond of such displays, but the city did it to recognize the service local military members make for the people who live there.
"He loved his family, he loved America, he loved this community and he loved God," she said. "He gave his life for us."