North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor, who was a major in the Utah National Guard, was killed Saturday while deployed with a Special Operations team in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Department of Defense confirmed Sunday.
The Pentagon delayed announcing Taylor’s identity, which was widely reported on social media and in the news Saturday, until after family members were notified. At a noon news conference, the Utah National Guard and Gov. Gary Herbert said Taylor, 39, died after being attacked by a member of the Afghan Defense and Security Forces as he was preparing to lead an Afghan forces team out on a foot patrol. A second American service member supporting Operation Freedom Sentinel was also wounded by small-arms fire before Afghan forces killed the attacker.
Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton could not say how many other American service members have been killed in “apparent insider attacks,” but he said there have been many. Burton said Taylor’s death has been particularly difficult because of a “feeling of betrayal or maybe misplaced trust” on the very people he was trying to help.
“Ultimately, knowing Brent Taylor, he was a bridge builder and a man who made friends and just loved people,” said Burton, who called Taylor “an amazing human being.”
“And, so, this makes it additionally bitter for us,” he said.
Gov. Gary Herbert, who knew Taylor as a soldier, mayor and member of the Utah Transit Authority Board, praised him for choosing to return to the region after already having served two tours in Iraq and another in Afghanistan. During those deployments, Taylor earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for meritorious service.
Taylor, whose military service began in 2003, is survived by his wife, Jennie, and seven children, who range in age from 11 months to 13 years.
“He was the personification of love of God, family and country,” Herbert, his eyes rimmed red, said.
Herbert said that Taylor, whose five brothers have also served in the military, had volunteered to serve as an intelligence officer and advisor to the Afghan border police. Taylor’s wife and family had supported his decision to return to Afghanistan to help the people there strengthen a fledgling democracy
“He was, in fact, discouraged. [And told] ‘You've done enough. You've done your part,’ and yet he wanted to go back,” Herbert said
Taylor’s body will return to the United States Monday night and will remain at the Dover Air Force base for at least several days, Burton said.
Meanwhile, the outpouring of support for Taylor’s family and mourning of his death continues throughout Utah. North Ogden City posted a note on its web page saying that the community is devastated about losing its top leader, who had been on military leave from that job since January.
“Brent had a profound influence on this community,” the message says. “He was the best of men with the ability to see potential and possibility in everything around him. We feel blessed to have had him as our mayor.”
Draper Mayor Troy Walker called Taylor “an outstanding man and mayor,” in a news release.
“I have the utmost respect for Brent as a soldier, selflessly serving our country,” Walker said. “He is a true American hero.”
State Rep. Mike Winder, R-West Valley City, had been keeping in touch with Taylor on Facebook.
“We’re just heartbroken today because he was truly one of the good guys,” Winder said in an interview. “He was willing to serve and put himself out there and ultimately pay the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.”
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and other elected officials shared a letter written to Taylor's family by a member of the Afghan military who served alongside Taylor.
Dear Mrs. Taylor,
Maj Taylor was my friend. I wrote this letter for his family.
I hope this little contribution eases your pain.
Note: this letter was sent to his physical add by one my American mentors. I tried to email too but I failed to find her email. pic.twitter.com/28nH7o4W6D
— Abdul Rahman Rahmani (@rahmanrahmanee) November 5, 2018