Dover Air Force Base, Del. • Six U.S. soldiers carried the flag-draped transfer case with the remains of Maj. Brent Taylor of the Utah National Guard as family members wept nearby.
It was near 4 a.m. Tuesday, the tarmac damp from a daylong rain and the darkness portraying the somber moment of returning a fallen soldier from the battlefield.
Taylor, the mayor of North Ogden, was killed Saturday in Afghanistan by a rogue Afghan security officer. The Utah National Guard officer leaves behind his wife, Jennie, and seven children, the youngest only 11 months old.
Jennie and family members watched, grief-stricken, as an Army honor guard lifted a metal case holding Taylor’s body from a nearby jet that had whisked him to American soil. The soldiers carried the case a short distance to a waiting gray van as a crowd of dignitaries and enlisted service members saluted.
Army Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy; Gen. Mark Milley, the Army chief of staff; and Gen. Joseph Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, were among officials who welcomed Taylor back along with Utah National Guard Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton and Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Anderson.
They stood, heads bowed, as chaplain David Kruse, an Army major, offered a short prayer, praising Taylor as a “fallen hero” who gave the “ultimate sacrifice.”
Few other words were spoken. The moment spoke for itself.
Two hours later, Jennie Taylor stood before TV cameras in a park to talk about the feelings that washed over her as her husband’s remains came home.
“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.”
Taylor’s family couldn’t be seen during the transfer, though seven white chairs were awaiting the mourners. Jennie said her two oldest sons and their grandparents attended the early morning event.
It was fitting, Jennie said, that Taylor’s remains came back to America on Election Day; she noted that before his death he had implored everyone to vote.
“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 immeasurably high to all those who know and love America and all that she represents.”
Taylor, who was serving his second tour in Afghanistan — his fourth overall assignment in a war theater with the other two in Iraq — has been praised as a principled leader whose name had been mentioned for higher political office.
He had deployed to Afghanistan in January for a yearlong tour, saying it was his duty as a soldier to serve his country and help train Afghan forces.
“Right now there is a need for my experience and skills to serve in our nation’s long-lasting war in Afghanistan,” he said at the time. “President [Donald] Trump has ordered an increase in troops, and part of the new strategy focuses on expanding the capabilities of the Afghan commando units.”
An Afghan soldier shot and killed Taylor and wounded another soldier while they were on a foot patrol in Kabul. Other Afghan security forces killed the assailant.
Taylor’s funeral arrangements are still being planned.
The base here is the first stop for fallen soldiers brought back to the U.S. Airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines meticulously prepare for the solemn transfer of caskets from a cargo plane to the on-site mortuary. No detail is too small in the choreographed ritual that runs deep with military protocol but is aimed at showing deference to a grieving family.
Thousands of military officers and enlisted men and women killed in war and peacetime overseas are traditionally brought to this base en route to their final resting sites. At the height of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, some 20 to 30 bodies were flown here sometimes daily, a scene that Americans didn’t see until 2009, when President Barack Obama allowed media access to the transfers with permission of the fallen service members’ families.