OGDEN — Maj. Brent R. Taylor, a Utah National Guardsman and North Ogden mayor killed while deployed in Afghanistan, was motivated, persistent, committed and fully engaged, according to friends and colleagues who served with him.
"As a brother, Brent was as good as they come. He was the best of us," said Capt. Derek Taylor, Brent Taylor's youngest brother. "He was the best of all of us."
Brent Taylor was celebrated and remembered Saturday at a public funeral at Weber State University's Dee Events Center. Thousands, including many local, state, national, and military officials, were in attendance.
"It is our responsibility to pick up his charge and live as he lived," Derek Taylor said, adding that he doesn't understand "why Brent was killed, but I do know that God loves his children.
"I do know we can take this awful tragedy and work it for good in our lives," he said.
Brent Taylor, 39, was killed during his fourth deployment, which began in January and was to last for one year. He was shot during what military officials described as an insider attack at the Kabul Military Training Center, when a member of the Afghan security forces opened fire on them.
He is survived by his wife, Jennie Taylor, and seven children, ranging from 11 months old to age 13.
Jennie Taylor, who maintained brave composure up until her husband's casket arrived at the cemetery, has been openly grateful for the public outpouring of support for her husband and their family. She did not speak during the service, as other extended family members offered opening and closing prayers.
Brent Taylor's father, Stephen Taylor, a Latter-day Saint bishop of a local congregation who conducted Saturday's service, said the family has always prayed for the safety and well-being of the military.
"We pray for peace, we pray for military leaders and political leaders to arrive at peace — certainly, that's the goal," he said. "That was Brent's goal."
Maj. Gen. Jefferson S. Burton, the adjutant general of the Utah National Guard for which Brent Taylor served, said Taylor was a "great soldier" and a "true patriot."
"He was so involved, I don't know when he slept," Burton said. "He knew what he wanted to accomplish in life and he set out to do that."
Burton spoke of how united Brent Taylor and his wife were, having made the decision together to actively serve in multiple deployments.
"He truly loved the Afghan people and wanted to help them so they could build capacity in themselves," he said. "He was a real deal, committed to doing these tasks."
"I know for a fact that Brent did more than he had to do," Burton said.
A close friend and former Pleasant View mayor Toby Mileski told the family that Brent Taylor "had an incredible sense of doing the right thing for the right reason."
"He was a true and loyal friend," he said. "I could stand here and share stories all day, but it is time to move on."
Mileski assured Taylor's children, "your dad was a warrior and a patriot and a super person."
"We will all miss him," he said.
His loss is bitter at the young age of 39, but he accomplished more than most. Brent was prepared to meet his maker.
–Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Quorum of the Seventy
Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Quorum of the Seventy, who years ago served as the mission president of Jennie Taylor's South American mission, said much can be learned from the life of Brent Taylor.
"A very high price is paid by those employed in military service, especially when that service leads to deployment to foreign lands and even more so when that deployment is placed in the center of combat," Elder Corbridge said, adding that he is "sobered by the sacrifice and love" of Brent Taylor, who gave his life for the causes of God, his family and his country.
For Brent Taylor, "service to one was service to all three," he said.
"More than mayor, more than soldier or major, more even than father or husband, Brent Russell Taylor was a disciple of Jesus Christ, endowed with heavenly power, and that transcends everything else and makes everything better," Elder Corbridge said.
Brent Taylor, a lifelong member of the church, he said, "went through hell" and "was better for it," which offers a lesson to all — with the power of God, "it is possible to be Christian in the most un-Christian circumstances, to rise above the horrors of life and even suffering in war."
"We're better because of him," Elder Corbridge said.
"His loss is bitter at the young age of 39, but he accomplished more than most," Burton said. "Brent was prepared to meet his maker."
Brent Taylor was laid to rest with full military honors, including a rifle salute, at the Ben Lomond Cemetery, 526 E. 2850 North, in North Ogden, where a smaller group of supporters gathered to remember him.
Community members, American flags and balloons lined the funeral procession route to the cemetery.
As is customary, the flag covering Brent Taylor's casket was ceremoniously folded and presented to Jennie Taylor during the quiet graveside service. Eight other flags, already folded, were given to his mother and each of his seven children.
"Brent showed us there is goodness in the world," his father said. "Let us serve one another and live Christlike lives as Brent did."
At the time of his deployment and eventual death, Brent Taylor was seeking a doctorate degree in international relations at the University of Utah, which he will be awarded posthumously in the spring of 2019. A scholarship fund has also been set up in his name there.
Contributing: Spencer Burt