SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – Family, friends, and the Utah community celebrated the life of Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover on Saturday night before his funeral this upcoming Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.
The remembrance took place at Hillcrest High School and those who loved him most shared fond memories of him. A few hundred people gathered in the football stands and on the field, filled with feelings of laughter, love, and loss.
The memories shared on Saturday night by friends and family reflect the kind of man, brother, fiancé, and friend that Hoover was. An anonymous quote shared on Saturday night describes Hoover best:
“Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it — it flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.”
One of those soldiers who died protecting the flag was Hoover. He died heroically at 31-years-old in the line of duty while protecting Americans and Afghan Nationals.
“I know he is standing right behind me and on this field cheering me on saying ‘that’s my girl,'” says Nicole Weiss, Hoover’s fiancé.
It was love at first kiss for Weiss. The young couple had been together for a little over two years before Hoover’s tragic passing.
“Taylor Hoover is by far the best thing that has happened to me and we came into each other’s lives at a time where we needed each other the most,” said Weiss. “I’ve heard that I saved him, but the honest truth is that we saved each other.”
The celebration of Hoover’s life focused on remembering the good times and sharing goofy stories — the ones that truly represented the man Hoover was.
“There is, in fact, a science to giving hugs,” shares Weiss. “Taylor gives the best hugs and to never, ever, ever, ever let Taylor do laundry because he doesn’t believe in separating the colors from the whites.”
Hoover played football at Hillcrest High School and always wanted to be a Marine. He made that decision after witnessing the 9/11 terrorist attacks when he was only 11-years-old. He wanted to exemplify honor, courage, and commitment — the Marine Corps values.
The Haka, a ceremonial Māori dance, was performed at the celebration. The dance is typically used in times of war, but in this case, it was used to honor and celebrate Hoover’s life.
“Taylor’s biggest love and his biggest priority was his family and Nicole,” says Kayleigh Snedeger, Hoover’s best friend of 20 years,
Snedeger says Hoover had the biggest heart, a contagious laugh, and loved his family more than anything else in the world.
“I’m going to make sure his memory lives on forever and I hope you guys do too,” says Snedeger.
Hoover’s father, mother, and sisters spoke on Saturday night as well. His sisters called him “Bubba” and said they know he’ll be watching over them forever. His mother and father both shared stories of their love for their only son.
The family will travel to Arlington National Cemetery this week where Hoover and the 12 other U.S. service members who were killed in the Kabul Airport attack will be buried this Friday.