Brent Taylor, a Utah mayor and Army National Guard major, was tragically killed in Afghanistan over the weekend, the Associated Press reported. He was 39.
Taylor, a father of seven, was on his fourth deployment to the Middle East. He had taken a leave of absence from his role as North Ogden’s mayor (a city north of Salt Lake City) for a year and was expected to return in January 2019, the outlet said.
On Saturday, officials confirmed that the military intelligence officer was fatally shot by one of the local Afghans he was training. Taylor reportedly died from the injuries he suffered as a result of the small arms fire, the AP reports said. His attacker was later killed by Afghan forces.
Taylor, who had been a Utah mayor since 2013, had previously served two tours in Iraq and was currently on his second tour in Afghanistan.
For his most recent trip, the father of seven was sent to work with an advisory team and train the Afghan national army, while also increasing their combat numbers, Major General Jefferson S. Burton, the adjutant general of the Utah National Guard, told the AP.
“He was with folks he was helping and training. That’s what’s so painful about this. It’s bitter,” he said. “I do believe that Major Taylor felt he was among friends, with people he was working with.”
Following Taylor’s passing, Utah Governor Gary Herbert released a statement on Twitter and spoke to Taylor’s leadership, patriotism, and bravery.
“I am heartbroken at the news that we lost one of our own today in Afghanistan and feel completely humbled by the service and the ultimate sacrifice offered by this brave and selfless soldier,” he wrote.
Gov. Herbert also spoke at a Utah National Guard headquarters news conference shortly after and called Taylor “the personification of love of God, family, and country,” the New York Times reported.
At the conference, the governor claimed that he tried to dissuade Taylor from returning to Afghanistan but the Major was adamant. Taylor explained that he had his wife Jennie’s support, liked the Afghans and believed he would be able to help the area and locals, according to the NYT.
Taylor leaves behind his wife Jennie, as well as the couple’s seven children: Megan, 13, Lincoln, 11, Alex, 9, Jacob 7, Ellie, 5, Jonathan, 2, and Caroline, 11 months, according to the NYT.
Prior to his departure, hundreds of the city’s 17,000 residents lined the street to bid farewell to their mayor, as he and his family were escorted by police around North Ogden, the outlet reported.
His remains are expected to arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Tuesday morning, ABC said. At this time, it is unclear if there are any plans for a service or memorial.
Since his passing, many have spoken out on social media and paid tribute to the fallen Major.
Most notably, Afghan national army pilot Abdul Rahman Rahmani, who served alongside Taylor penned an emotional letter to his wife and remembered the “loving, caring, and compassionate man” who helped change his views on family, his wife, and democracy.
“I gained a great deal of knowledge from him and I am a better person for having met him,” he wrote in the note shared to Twitter.
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“I am writing this letter to you about a man whom I considered a close friend, and whom I dearly loved,” he wrote. “A leader; one who was the first to volunteer for any tough assignment.”
“Never stop telling [your kids] what a great man their father was, he was a true patriot. He died on our soil but he died for the success of freedom and democracy in both of our countries,” Rahmani added.
Other political leaders, including Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and Senate candidate Mitt Romney, added to the social media tributes of the Mayor.
“Brent was a hero, a patriot, a wonderful father, and a dear friend,” Senator Hatch wrote. “News of his death in Afghanistan is devastating… His service will always be remembered.”
“Heartbroken with the tragic news of Major Brent Taylor’s death by gunfire in Afghanistan; a father of 7 small children, a city mayor, and a proud member of the Army National Guard. Another unmeasurable price is paid for freedom,” Romney wrote on Twitter.
The city of North Odgen also posted a tribute to their fallen mayor on their website, explaining that Taylor’s “profound influence” would live on forever.
“We are devastated by the loss of our Mayor and friend, Brent Taylor,” they wrote. “Our hearts and thoughts go to Jennie, their children, and other family members as they deal with this tragic loss. We love them and hope they will feel the love and support of all of us in North Ogden.”
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“Brent had a profound influence on this community,” they continued. “He was the best of men with the ability to see potential and possibility in everything around him. We feel blessed to have had him as our mayor.”
“Everywhere you look in North Ogden you can see his profound influence. He had a great love and vision for this community. He was patriotic to the core and a shining example of what an American politician should be. We are grateful for his service to both our city and our country. His loss will be felt for years to come,” they added.
Another American was wounded in the attack, ABC reported. He is currently undergoing medical procedures but is in stable condition.
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