NORTH OGDEN (ABC 4 News) – The streets of North Ogden are lined with flags and yellow ribbons as a way to pay tribute to their beloved Mayor Brent Taylor, who was killed in Afghanistan Saturday morning during his fourth deployment.
During a press conference Sunday morning, Governor Gary Herbert and Major General Jefferson Burton confirmed details of Mayor Taylor’s death. He was 39 years old.
“For me personally, Brent typified the citizen who served so diligently in his community as well as fulfilled his call and wore a uniform and served wherever the nation needed him to go,” said Maj. Gen. Burton. “He’s a heavy loss for us and he’ll be missed.”
Mayor Taylor deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan back in January for Operational Freedom Sentinel. His mission was to support special operations forces in the region by training and building capacity within the Afghan National Army.
Officials said he was killed during an insider attack by a member of the Afghan National Defensive Security Forces. An additional U.S. serviceman was wounded, but is expected to survive. Their attacker was killed immediately by Afghan forces.
Governor Herbert emphasized that Mayor Taylor volunteered for the deployment, even when he was advised not to go.
“He helped the people be liberated, have the freedoms that we enjoy and too often in America and here in Utah take for granted,” said Gov. Herbert. “That’s an admirable quality we all ought to emulate and think ‘What can we do to help our fellow man?’”
Family, friends, and community members said they were excitingly awaiting Mayor Taylor’s return, as he was only two months away from completing his deployment. The news of his death blindsided many.
“I kept hoping I would wake up from a bad dream,” said Lindee Bess, friend of Mayor Taylor. “As a mother, I can’t imagine what Jennie and the kids are going through and you just want to do something to help. You know you can’t take their pain away but you want to.”
Bess partnered with Lori Lee, also a friend of Mayor Taylor to start a GoFundMe page to alleviate funeral costs for his wife, Jennie and his seven children that he leaves behind. As of Sunday night, the fundraiser reached nearly $200,000.
Lee said the community’s love and support is what eased the pain for her nine years ago when she lost her husband. That’s why she wanted to make sure the same was done for Mayor Taylor’s family.
“The grief is beyond what you can even imagine, unless you’ve been through this before,” said Lee. “So if we, as a community, can take one piece of the puzzle away through finances and things she doesn’t have to handle in that arena, it will mean everything to her down the road.”
Bess and Lee said the best thing about Mayor Taylor was that he made every single person feel like they mattered.
“He cared. He knew your name. He knew your family. He knew your situation. Every time he saw you, he asked about you. Can you imagine all the people he came in contact with?” said Lee.
Several blocks from city hall on 600 East is a sidewalk lined with flags by the Hughes family.
“The neighborhood has been somber,” said resident Matt Hughes. “Usually I put flags up during 4th of July as a celebration. So it’s hard for me to put these up in a time like this. He’s a good mayor and a good guy. We lost one of the good ones. That’s hard to go through as a city.”
Hughes said he’s spent the past 24 hours helping his daughter, Courtney understand what happened and why it happened.
“It made me really sad because Mayor Taylor had seven children and one of them was brand new,” said Courtney Hughes. “Those kids woke up this morning without a dad.”
As a long road to recovery lies ahead, community members said the legacy he leaves behind is what will get them through this difficult time.
“It really hits home because it’s not just a story to us,” said Bess. “He was one of ours.”
Major General Burton said members of the Utah National Guard are on their way to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware as Mayor Taylor’s remains return from Afghanistan Monday night at 9:45 p.m.
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized as of Sunday afternoon. Stay with ABC 4 News as we will keep you updated with the latest information on the air and online.