A fallen hero’s mes­sage for vot­ers back home

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS -

So many of the air­ways lead­ing up to Elec­tion Day were filled with dark, grainy im­ages of op­pos­ing can­di­dates and bray­ing claims of dystopian fu­tures if vot­ers did not act out of fear or ha­tred.

Sud­denly, through the haze of this art­less con­fec­tion, came the ter­ri­ble and clar­i­fy­ing news that Army Maj. Brent Tay­lor had been killed in Afghanistan. For a fleet­ing mo­ment, the na­tion was re­minded once again about the pu­rity of mil­i­tary ser­vice and un­var­nished sac­rifice — about our bet­ter an­gels.

Tay­lor, 39, was a hus­band and fa­ther of seven; the Repub­li­can mayor of North Og­den, Utah; and an officer with the Utah Na­tional Guard serv­ing on his fourth com­bat de­ploy­ment.

Some Amer­i­cans might not have even re­al­ized that U.S. troops are still in harm’s way af­ter 17 years of war in Afghanistan. The num­ber de­ployed has di­min­ished from more than 100,000 in 2011 to about 14,000 this year.

Tay­lor had been there since Jan­uary. When he left to go over­seas, hun­dreds of res­i­dents lined the streets of North Og­den to say farewell and po­lice es­corted him through town. “There is a need for my ex­pe­ri­ence and skills to serve in our na­tion’s long-last­ing war,” Tay­lor wrote on Face­book.

He had joined the mil­i­tary af­ter 9/11, along with all five of his broth­ers, and served two tours in Iraq and a pre­vi­ous de­ploy­ment to Afghanistan. On his fourth and final de­ploy­ment, he was as­signed to Kabul as an in­struc­tor for new Afghan com­man­dos.

On Satur­day, one of the com­man­dos Tay­lor was train­ing — in the kind of in­sider at­tack that has claimed other Amer­i­can lives in Afghanistan — fa­tally shot the Utah guards­man and wounded an­other U.S. ser­vice mem­ber be­fore be­ing killed him­self.

The at­tack re­opens all the lin­ger­ing ques­tions about Amer­ica’s in­volve­ment in Afghanistan, in­clud­ing the trust­wor­thi­ness of our Afghan al­lies and the de­mands of mul­ti­ple de­ploy­ments.

A week be­fore he died, Tay­lor had cel­e­brated how mil­lions of Afghans braved threats to cast bal­lots in par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in Oc­to­ber. “Many Amer­i­can, NATO al­lies and Afghan troops have died to make mo­ments like this pos­si­ble,” he wrote.

His was a sim­ple cal­cu­lus: ser­vice with­out fan­fare or the prom­ise of en­rich­ment, act­ing out of a sense of duty and a be­lief in what is right.

In his last Face­book post­ing, Tay­lor urged Amer­i­cans to do their duty and vote: “We have far more as Amer­i­cans that unites us than di­vides us.”

The tragedy of yet an­other Amer­i­can ca­su­alty be­came all too real early Tues­day, as Tay­lor’s re­mains ar­rived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. His widow, Jen­nie, and the cou­ple’s two old­est sons were there to see the coffin car­ried by honor guard from an air­craft.

In the predawn still­ness, as a slain soldier re­turned from war, his widow of­fered the right words as trib­ute: “It seems only fitting that Brent, who in death now rep­re­sents some­thing so much greater than any of our in­di­vid­ual lives, has come home to U.S. soil in a flag-draped cas­ket on our Elec­tion Day.”


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