NORTH OGDEN — The outpouring following Brent Taylor's death in Afghanistan has been incredible, says his sister-in-law, Kristy Pack.
It's one of the things that's helping the family through the tragedy.
"It's the cliché things that really make a difference, people's prayers and support," Pack said Sunday, addressing the media from the yard outside Taylor's North Ogden home. "Just seeing the flags that people have put out and the kind words that have been written on social media — those are small things, but they make a big difference."
Brent Taylor, a major in the Utah Army National Guard who had served as North Ogden mayor, died Saturday while on a deployment to Afghanistan, apparently after an Afghani soldier in his contingent unexpectedly turned on him and attacked him. The turn of events left many reeling, and Gov. Gary Herbert on Sunday praised Taylor's service while many more turned to social media to offer supportive words.
Pack, the sister of Brent Taylor's wife, Jennie Taylor, offered thanks for the outpouring. His death is hitting the family hard.
"Heartbreaking doesn't describe it. I don't think any of us in a million years really thought ... that Brent wouldn't be coming home. He is such an inspirational figure and, to me, just such an inspired person," she said. Brent Taylor was nearing the end of his year-long deployment, the fourth of his National Guard career, and he planned to resume his mayoral duties on returning to North Ogden.
But seeing in his death how his life positively impacted others helps ease the pain, even for his seven children, aged 13 years to 11 months, cause of particular concern. Family is asking for donations to help Jennie Taylor raise the kids, and as of Sunday evening, three GoFundMe pages between them had generated more than $195,000 in donations, one of them accounting for most of that.
"It's going to be a big struggle for all of them. We've just been so grateful for the friends and the neighbors and the teachers and the church leaders and the complete strangers. The people who have just visited and sent things and written things and donated money," Pack said, surrounded by North Ogden leaders, the yard filled with U.S. flags and an oversized yellow ribbon.
At the same time, Pack said her sister and Brent Taylor knew the risks of serving and accepted it.
"She has very strong feelings about this. She knew what she was signing up for. All of their decisions as a couple were very thoughtful and very intentional, in him going on this tour, in every deployment that he had," she said. Brent Taylor had already deployed twice before to Iraq and once to Afghanistan before returning to the country last January, part of a mission to train the Afghani army and help bolster the ability of Afghanis to govern and control their nation.
Indeed, his death leaves pain. But his life meant something.
"It's like Jennie said, there's heartache but not regret," Pack said. "When a man like Brent has the desire to bring freedom to others and to serve his country and he gives his life to that cause — in our view there's not a whole lot of room for anger. We're so proud of the way he lived, we're proud of the way he gave his life. And we are overwhelmed with heartache but not regret."
Brent Taylor's remains are to arrive in the United States at Dover Air Force Base on Monday and funeral arrangements have yet to be made. Family are asking those willing to help to donate to the Taylor Family Charitable Account at America First Credit Union or at www.gofundme.com/mayor-brent-taylor.