Brent and Jennie Taylor’s story began at Brigham Young University. As undergraduates, their roommates set them up, pitching to Jennie that Brent was the male version of her.
It didn’t go well.
“The first blind date was a disaster,” Jennie Taylor said.
But a church fireside led to pie in what ended up being his apartment, which led to a conversation, which led to the two quickly deciding they wanted to exclusively date each other.
And although Maj. Brent Taylor was killed in the line of duty late last year in Afghanistan, the late North Ogden mayor and father of seven’s legacy will live on at BYU.
Brent Taylor’s name was unveiled as the newest addition to the BYU Memorial Wall in the Reflection Room of the Wilkinson Student Center on Thursday afternoon in a ceremony that brought together family along with political and military leaders to remember him.
Brent Taylor is an alumnus of the BYU ROTC program and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2006.
The Memorial Wall, which was formerly located in spaces known as the Memorial Lounge and Memorial Hall, commemorates BYU students and alumni who have been killed in the line of military duty since World War I. Brent Taylor’s name joins four others listed under the War on Terror.
His is the 211th name to the added to the wall.
Lt. Col. Chip Cook, a professor in military science at BYU, told the crowd assembled for the unveiling that there had been efforts in the works to add Brent Taylor’s name to the wall since he was killed, and that there was no time more fitting than near Memorial Day.
“He stood for representing the ideals of this university,” Cook said.
Retired Brig. Gen. Val Peterson, who is also a member of the Utah House of Representatives and the vice president of finance and administration at Utah Valley University, called the unveiling a humbling moment during his remarks.
Peterson was Brent Taylor’s former battalion commander in the Utah Army National Guard, and the two ran for political office at the same time.
He said Brent Taylor embodied the characteristics of truth and kept the commandments.
“He understood the importance of freedom,” Peterson said.
Peterson said he remembers studying in front of the wall and looking at its names. He hopes students wonder who the individuals listed on the walls were.
“He set an example for all of us that we could follow,” Peterson said.
The ceremony also included the announcement of the Brent and Jennie Family Endowed Scholarship, which will be awarded annually to an undergraduate political science student at BYU.
The Taylor family is seeking donations to make the scholarships endowed. The goal is to raise $160,000 for the scholarships, which will pay the full tuition of an undergraduate student at BYU, and one master and one doctoral candidate scholarship at the University of Utah each year. Brent Taylor received a Master of Public Administration in 2013 from the U of U and planned to finish his doctoral studies at the university when he returned from his deployment.
The Taylors visited the Memorial Wall in August when Brent was on leave from his fourth deployment to the Middle East.
“We commented on how beautiful this was,” Jennie Taylor said.
She has a picture of him in front of the wall.
Jennie said that Brent would be embarrassed whenever he was traveling in uniform and someone would approach him to thank him for his service. She said that had the attitude that they weren’t thanking him individually, but were celebrating the American soldier. In the wake of Brent Taylor’s death, his family has adopted the same approach of celebrating the American soldier.
During her remarks, she said she knows that she is eternally sealed to a man who sacrificed for his country.
“The spirit of freedom is truly the spirit of God,” Jennie Taylor said.
She hopes that as Memorial Day approaches, people remember Abraham Lincoln’s words during his Gettysburg Address.
The ceremony was also attended by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who said Brent Taylor was his close friend, and he asked for his schedule to be cleared when Jennie reached out.
“When she asked me to be here, it was easy,” Cox said.
He said he hopes that people use Memorial Day as a time to remember, and that it’s easy to forget soldiers when wars are far away and they don’t personally know its victims.
To donate to the scholarship fund, visit http://majorbrenttaylor.com.