Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Wife Of Fallen Utah Mayor Brent Taylor Commemorates A 'Deeper, More Personal' Memorial Day

Jennie Taylor giving speech
Rebecca Ellis / KUER
Jennie Taylor, wife of former North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor, addressed the crowd gathered at the Fort Douglas Cemetery for this year’s Memorial Day ceremony. ";

On a drizzly Memorial Day morning, Jennie Taylor recounted what she described as a life-changing text message from her husband to a crowd gathered at the historic Fort Douglas Cemetery.

“It wasn’t lengthy, nor were its words remarkable or eloquent,” she told the attendees of the Memorial Day ceremony hosted by a local chapter of the Association of the United States Army. “His text message simply read, ‘We need to talk when I get home.’”

This wasn’t the first time Taylor had received a message like this from her husband, former North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor, who had deployed to the Middle East three times over the course of their 15-year marriage.

“I silently fell to my knees and almost instinctively replied back, ‘Where will you be going?”

The answer was Afghanistan — where her husband would deploy as a major with the Utah National Guard. He was supposed to spend 400 days with the unit before stepping back into his role as Mayor.

But on Nov. 3, Jennie Taylor received the news that her husband would be returning to her and her seven children in a flag-draped coffin. He had been killed in action — one of more than 5,000 Americans who have lost their lives in battle since 9/11.

“On previous Memorial days, our family has joined in and celebrated the sacrifice and devotion of someone else’s soldier, someone else’s father or mother ... and certainly someone else’s sweetheart,” she said, reflecting on her first Memorial Day as a member of a Gold Star Family. “Today, Memorial (Day) takes on a deeper, more personal meaning.”

It’s men and women like Brent Taylor, who Mike Menser, President of the Utah Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, wants Utahns to remember as they enjoy the back-door barbecues and first-of-summer pool dips that typically accompany Memorial Day.

“That’s all great stuff, but they should remember more about how special this day is and why,” said Menser. “The statistics I’ve seen say that more than 50 percent of the population of the United States do not know what Memorial Day is all about. That’s a sad commentary.”

It’s not about the long weekend, the start of summer, the start of a big sale — nor, said Ed King, a retired colonel who’s served tours in Germany, Korea, Hungary, and Iraq, is the day about men like him.

“Memorial Day is about remembering those who have sacrificed their lives. It’s not about other veterans,” he said. “It’s for them and them alone.”

Rebecca Ellis is a Kroc Fellow with NPR. She grew up in New York City and graduated from Brown University in 2018 with a Bachelor's in Urban Studies. In college, Rebecca served as a managing editor at the student newspaper, the Brown Daily Herald, and freelanced for Rhode Island's primary paper, the Providence Journal. She has spent past summers as an investigator at the Bronx Defenders, a public defender's office in the Bronx, New York, and as a reporter at the Miami Herald, filing general assignment stories and learning to scuba dive.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.