Memorial celebrates Utah Marine who died in Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery next week.

(Connor Sanders l The Salt Lake Tribune) Nicole Weiss, fiancee of slain Marine Sgt. Taylor Hoover, addressed a crowd at a memorial service on Saturday at Hillcrest High School.

Midvale • Members of Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover’s family and U.S. active military members and veterans honored the fallen Marine at a memorial service Saturday.

Hoover was killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 26.

The memorial was held on the football field at Hillcrest High School, where Hoover graduated from in 2008.

Speakers told of Hoover’s heroics during an attack on the Kabul airport. Hoover moved all over the battlefield, helping bystanders find cover and returning fire, his family friend Kevin Salmon said.

Attendees sang the “Star-Spangled Banner” and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Salmon led a cheer for active military members and veterans.

Hoover’s uncle, Sean Hoover, said that Sgt. Hoover received several awards during his 10-year service career, including a Purple Heart.

Hoover was deployed overseas five times, serving in a wide range of duties, his uncle said.

Sean Hoover told the audience about his nephew’s contagious laugh and bright smile before addressing Taylor himself.

“We will miss you dearly,” Sean Hoover said. “We will always remember the sacrifices you made for us.”

Sgt. Hoover was interested in joining the Marine Corps from a young age, Salmon said. Salmon, who served as a Marine in Iraq, told him about the camaraderie and personal growth he experienced with his fellow Marines.

Friends and a religious mentor told stories of Hoover’s youth, calling him a “big teddy bear” and “the best type of friend.”

“He was the toughest Marine with the kindest soul,” Kayleigh Snedeger, his best friend, said.

Everett Ika, one of Hoover’s high school football coaches, performed the Haka, a Maori war dance often used in honoring warriors lost in battle, in Hoover’s honor.

Nicole Weiss, Hoover’s fiancee, told the crowd that Hoover was her “dream man.” She told the story of how they fell in love and read messages from Marines who were serving with Hoover when he was killed.

“I don’t want people to feel sad for me,” she said. “I want them to know how grateful I am for having been with such an incredible man.”

Weiss said that she and Hoover never spent time apart without first expressing their love for each other.

Hoover’s sister, Tori Manning, said he was a protector and a good leader. His favorite thing was to quote old movies and quiz his friends to see if they knew where the quote came from, she said.

Manning reported that Hoover stayed hours after his shift at the airport, refusing to eat or sleep until he was allowed to return to the fight.

Members of the Sandy City Council and other Sandy City officials helped to organize the memorial.

A public viewing will be held Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Murphy Funeral Home in Virginia before Hoover’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery. There will be a funeral service for Hoover from 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. and graveside service with full military honors at 11 a.m. on Friday.

The funeral is open to the public, though limited seating is available.