Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
MIDVALE — Family and friends gathered at Hillcrest High School Saturday to remember and honor Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover — the Utah Marine killed in Afghanistan in a bombing in Kabul as the armed forces desperately tried to get refugees out of the country.
Some of the greatest moments are celebrated on home turf. Perhaps that's what made this the perfect backdrop to honor a fallen hero.
"We wanted tonight to be a celebration."
On the field, friends say Staff. Sgt. Taylor Hoover exemplified the leadership qualities that would later direct his life.
"He was always happy," his former football coach said. "When he would light somebody up on the football field, he was the first person to pick them up."
That's why his family and friends gathered to pay their respects, though, Hoover's remains will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., sometime next week.
"I found myself speaking of him in the present tense because he is still with me," Hoover's girlfriend, Nicole Weiss, said. "I know he's standing behind me on this field cheering me on, saying 'that's my girl.'"
From the time he was a young boy, friends say, Hoover had one dream: to protect others by joining the U.S. Marine Corps.
"Taylor was the big brother and father figure that so many Marines never had," Taylor's sister, Tori Manning, shared.
That's exactly what his family says Hoover was doing last month when two suicide bombs exploded outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan killing dozens.
"A natural born leader, born to come to this Earth to lead and to protect," Manning said. "He stayed hours past his shift at the gate to get as many men and women to safety."
As Hoover's family honors him they want to make sure his service and sacrifice will not be forgotten.
Watch the full Utah service here:
A public viewing will be held at the Murphy Funeral Home in Virginia on Thursday from 3-7 p.m. There will be a funeral service on Friday from 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. and a graveside service with full military honors at 11 a.m. on Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.