OGDEN — Hundreds gathered in Dee Events Center Saturday for Maj. Brent Taylor’s funeral, remembering him as a listener, a soldier, a peacemaker and a leader.
Taylor was killed Nov. 3 while serving with the Utah Army National Guard in Afghanistan.
"With Brent it wasn't all about who was right or wrong, it was about being respectful,” said Capt. Derek Taylor, his younger brother and one of the speakers in the funeral ceremony. His brother, Derek Taylor said, was "the peacemaker in the family."
Toby Mileski, former mayor of Pleasant View and friend, called him a “warrior, patriot and a super person.” Mileski, who was also one of the speakers, said that as a political leader — Taylor had served as North Ogden mayor — he had principles.
"No matter where he was, he took a stand for right against wrong. ... He was always fighting for the people, and you could count on that," Mileski said.
The crowd Saturday included family, friends and others, there to remember a man involved in North Ogden and statewide issues. Gov. Gary Herbert sat on the stage while uniformed Boy Scouts from the North Ogden area and members of Taylor's church helped usher the event. Audience members included North Ogden constituents, countless Utah Army National Guard members dressed in military clothing and leather-clad members of the Patriot Guard Riders, the motorcycle group active in remembering fallen soldiers.
Many, like Jessica Burnham, a North Ogden resident in attendance, didn't know Taylor personally, but were there nevertheless to pay tribute.
"He was amazing. He was very personable. He listened to everyone’s problems, tried to do the best he could," said Burnham, familiar with Taylor stemming from his role as mayor. The many flags that have popped up in yards in North Ogden and elsewhere in tribute to Taylor show "the love the community has for him and his family.”
Before the event, photos of Taylor with friends and family flashed on the giant hanging scoreboard in the middle of Dee, located at Weber State University and home to the WSU basketball team. Video tributes from fellow military members also played on the screen, while bunches and bunches of colorful flowers from well-wishers sat on the main floor. A pair of dogs sniffed the arena as a precaution before it started, but the event unfolded without a hitch.
U.S. flags bedecked the grounds around Dee, and the patriotism and military involvement of Taylor was a big focus of those remembering the man, amid sniffles and tears of some.
"I don't think I met a man more patriotic than Brent Taylor," though wife Jennie Taylor may be the exception, joked Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton, head of the Utah Army National Guard. "He was respected by his fellow soldiers and he was respected by his enemies."
Burton noted that the president of Afghanistan had called Jennie Taylor earlier in the week to express his regrets.
Taylor lived life "completely without fear" and went to Afghanistan, his fourth military deployment, to help the people there, said Burton, one of the speakers at the funeral. Involvement in the military and politics, he noted, was a joint decision of Brent Taylor and wife Jennie.
"This was a team there," Burton said.
But even if he was confident and purposeful, it wasn't with brashness.
"He was always one to serve others," said Mark Cowley, part of a group from Taylor's ward in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that was helping Saturday with ushering duties. "But he did it so quietly and humbly sometimes you didn't know he was there."
Cowley remembers Taylor's demeanor as North Ogden mayor when dealing with zoning and other issues. Such topics can get people heated up, but Taylor, who had temporarily stepped down as mayor for deployment to Afghanistan, "would always stay very calm," said Cowley.
As people trickled in to the purple arena at Dee ahead of Saturday's funeral ceremony, Jeff Dickamore, another volunteer helping, noted the strong outpouring from supporters in North Ogden and beyond. Taylor's immediate family members were the last to arrive and they were ushered in just behind the flag-draped casket containing Taylor's remains, which sat front and center during the ceremony.
"There's lots of love. It's amazing and humbling to see the community get together," said Dickamore. Those helping out Saturday, he said, were doing so out of respect for Taylor and as a show of support for his wife and family.
Also taking part in the funeral service was Lawrence E. Corbridge a member of the Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"Life is eternal, including (Taylor's)," said Corbridge. "He is not diminished, not impaired, not fallen. He's standing taller today than ever before,"
Though many seats in Dee remained empty, several hundred people gathered for the hour-and-a-half funeral, which ended around 2:45 p.m. Following the ceremony, his remains were brought in a motorcade through Ogden to Ben Lomond Cemetery in North Ogden for graveside services. The procession traveled north on Harrison Boulevard to 12th Street, then followed Monroe Boulevard to 1100 North, then took Washington Boulevard into North Ogden.
At the cemetery, he received full military honors, complete with a color guard, bagpipes and plenty of American flags.
A half hour before the graveside service began, dozens had already arrived at the cemetery, some dressed in their full military uniform. Minutes before the motorcade arrived, a van delivered flowers to the gravesite.
Three white hearses pulled into the cemetery around 3:25 p.m., and shortly after six service members dressed in their military uniforms removed the casket, as bagpipes blared in the background. Soldiers standing nearby gave traditional rifle volleys, shooting into the air and jolting many in attendance.
One by one, Burton gave American flags to each of Taylor's children just moments after each one was touched to the casket. Taylor's uncle, Richard Taylor, dedicated the grave.
"We consecrate and dedicate this plot of land as the final resting place for the physical and mortal body of Brent Russell Taylor," Richard Taylor said.
He prayed that Taylor's resting place may become a source of solace and comfort, a place where family can feel a connection between heaven and earth.
"We now are tasked with living these same principles of reaching out to others and serving in the way that our Savior has taught us, and the way in which Brent has lived his life," Richard Taylor said. "We are grateful in the lesson we have learned from him, how the power of one individual can truly impact and change the world. What a humbling and grateful lesson that is for each of us."
At the conclusion of the dedication, Taylor's father, Stephen Taylor, thanked those for attending the services. As the crowd began to dissipate, family members left shirt ties and flowers on the casket before leaving.
Taylor died while nearing the end of a year-long deployment to Afghanistan that started last January. He was tasked with helping train Afghan special forces and died when a member of the contingent he was aiding turned on him and attacked him during a foot patrol, according to authorities. Officials haven't provided additional details of the incident.
Given his political and military involvement, Taylor's death shocked and saddened many, generating a huge show of support across Utah and beyond. He and his wife had seven kids, ranging in age from 13 years to about one year.
Hundreds attended a viewing Friday night at Dee, filing past Taylor's flag-draped casket and greeting his wife, who sat at the end of the long line. After the viewing, Taylor's remains were transported to Myers Mortuary, which handled funeral arrangements, and watched over until early Saturday morning by a rotating honor guard of military service members, before they were brought to Dee.
Taylor's father, Stephen Taylor, who also spoke at the funeral, alluded to the outpouring. "We have been inundated, covered, surrounded with kindness, sympathy, love, service, lots of food. It goes on and on," he said.