A fallen hero’s message for voters back home
So many of the airways leading up to Election Day were filled 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 fleeting moment, the nation was reminded once again about the purity of military service and unvarnished sacrifice — about our better angels.
Taylor, 39, was a husband and father of seven; the Republican mayor of North Ogden, Utah; and an officer 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 five of his brothers, and served two tours in Iraq and a previous deployment to Afghanistan. On his fourth and final 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 coffin 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 fitting 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 flag-draped casket on our Election Day.”