North Ogden • Jennie Taylor held her hand to her heart Saturday while six uniformed men lifted her husband’s casket from a white hearse.
Her head dropped as the casket was placed atop an open gravesite, followed by a period of silence broken by the reading of a scriptural passage, a crash of gunfire in salute and the playing of taps.
Hundreds of friends, family and neighbors had gathered at Ben Lomond Cemetery to pay their respects to North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor, a major in the National Guard.
Taylor, 39, was killed Nov. 3 while training an Afghan Army commando battalion near Kabul. He was on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan and fourth deployment of his 10-year military career.
A public funeral was held Saturday at Weber State University’s Dee Events Center, followed by graveside services that included military honors and a dedicatory prayer traditional to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Through the cemetery trees to the east, a colossal U.S. flag could be seen suspended across Coldwater Canyon.
“The outpouring of love and sympathy has been, truly, overwhelming,” said Stephen Taylor, Brent Taylor’s father.
At the funeral, Brent Taylor’s brother Derek Taylor reminisced about the mayor’s lack of punctuality. He shared stories in which Brent Taylor was late to a creek cleanup project at their parents' home, and a family photo shoot in which Brent Taylor was absent because he overslept and missed a flight.
But Brent Taylor also was the peacemaker in a family that included one daughter and six sons, Derek Taylor said. He said Brent Taylor had “gifts and abilities," which he used to encourage and serve others, and to make people the best versions of themselves.
“As a brother, Brent was as good as they come,” Derek Taylor said. “He was the best of all of us.”
Brent Taylor also believed in “the healing power of [Christ’s] atonement," Derek Taylor said. And while that doesn’t mean the Taylor family’s life will return to normal after Brent Taylor’s death, Derek Taylor said, it means they can experience joy in spirt of the heartache and make it through one more hour, day, week and year without their brother, husband, father and son.
“I do not know why Brent was killed,” Derek Taylor said. “But I do know that God loves his children.”
Toby Mileski, a former mayor of Pleasant View, North Ogden’s neighboring city, said Brent Taylor quickly became his best friend after they were elected in short succession of each other.
“The only way I can describe it is that God must have had a plan to bring Brent into my life,” Mileski said.
Mileski said he will miss how he was always laughing when he was with Brent Taylor. And in comments directed at Brent Taylor’s children, Mileski described the mayor and guardsman as a warrior, patriot and “super person.”
“Your dad had an incredible sense of doing the right thing for the right reason,” Mileski said. “He was always fighting for the people, and you could count on that.”
Utah National Guard Maj. Gen. Jefferson S. Burton commented that he didn’t think he’d ever met anyone more patriotic than Brent Taylor. Brent Taylor had a magnetic personality, Burton said, loved the Constitution, and set out to be a moral and righteous person.
“He understood that you can wring your hands, or you can roll up your sleeves,” Burton said, “but you can’t do both at the same time.”
At the time of his death, Brent Taylor was part of an operation to train Afghan troops. An Afghan soldier opened fire while Brent Taylor was on foot patrol, killing Taylor and injuring another soldier, according to the Utah National Guard.
Other Afghan fighters quickly killed the attacker, according to NATO.
Prior to his death, Brent Taylor wrote several posts on social media praising the Afghan soldiers he was working with, and the people of Afghanistan in general.
Burton remarked on Brent Taylor’s posts, describing Taylor as “profound” and someone who truly loved the Afghan people and who wanted to help them. Brent Taylor lived his life without fear, Burton said, and was someone who did more than he had to and went “outside the wire” — or beyond the safety of a controlled military location — to get to know the people around him.
“Leaders cannot make sound decisions unless they’re at the point of attack,” Burton said. “He was fearless and he positioned himself where a leader should be.”