An American hero died last week in Afghanistan. You never met him. You never heard of him. You probably have never, ever been to the place he was raised, or where he grew up.
Today though, Brent Taylor, an American soldier who was the civilian mayor of North Ogden, Utah, is gone.
Taylor died because America is still at war in Afghanistan, no matter what we say to the contrary. Yes, despite three presidents and seventeen years, we are still at war. Our troops are still there. And now Major Taylor is dead.
You just don’t hear a lot about Afghanistan on CNN or Fox. The chances are neither one ever mentioned Brent Taylor before this past weekend. The producers don’t see foreign wars getting a 7 share. They are too busy talking about Stormy Daniels.
Last week, though, Afghanistan held its first parliamentary election in eight years. Over 4 million Afghan men and women voted, cautiously. They are still at war. To cast their votes, they had to risk their lives, brave daily threats, and endure deadly attacks by the Taliban, who had sworn to kill those who dared to vote.
The Afghan people finally voted only because thousands of Americans and our coalition allies have been protecting them; fighting for the better part of 17 years to give them that right.
Major Taylor died so they could cast that ballot.
Taylor did not have to be there. He was the civilian mayor of his hometown. He was a volunteer soldier. He was the loving husband to a caring wife, the father of seven children- yes, seven.
This week, America votes. We decide our futures by ballots, not bullets. Taylor died fighting in a foreign land for something we take so for granted here at home.
Ironically, only two weeks ago, Taylor posted a final note on Facebook about the death of another soldier, a close friend of his, killed by the Taliban, one day before the Afghan voting began.
Taylor’s simple but meaningful last words should be recorded and celebrated for posterity. Unknowingly, citizen Taylor sent America a lasting message. The soldier who was mayor wrote:
“As the USA gets ready to vote in our own election next week, I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote. And that whether the Republicans or the Democrats win, that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unites us than divides us. United we stand, divided we fall. God Bless America.”
Today, Taylor is gone. But like thousands of citizen soldiers before him, his deeds and his courage will live long beyond his time here on Earth.
In the past few days, I read a lot about Major Taylor. I see he left Brigham Young University and joined the Army National Guard not long after the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.
As a New Yorker, who lost friends there on that day, I salute him. I thank him. Anyone who has been to my office and seen all the pictures on my wall commemorating 9/11 understand how it has measured my life.
So yes, even here in Wilton Manors, at a small, gay community newspaper not far from the Atlantic Ocean, we salute you, Major Taylor, your valor and your words. You helped make America special.
“He was the best of men with the ability to see potential and possibility in everything around him,” North Ogden’s website said in announcing Taylor’s death. It added, “He was patriotic to the core and a shining example of what an American politician should be.”
His wife, Jennie Taylor, was quoted this past January in a Utah newspaper. She said that service was an important part of their lives, and an example for their seven children. “In our family, we do what we can. If it’s something we can do, and the call comes to serve, we say yes.”
We salute your husband, Mrs. Taylor. Yes, we do. And we remember him both as Mayor Taylor and Major Taylor. His volunteerism and his life honors our own.
You do what you can when you can and where you can. You fight today to make a difference for tomorrow. Some, like Brent Taylor, do more than sacrifice their time to seek a better world. They sacrifice their lives.
We can only hope that within our grasp, we can find the tools to make a difference in our own lives.
We here at the SFGN correspondingly salute you too, the readers of our paper and the volunteers in our community.
We salute you whether you serve in the National Guard or volunteered as a poll watcher in this week’s election.
We salute you whether you serve as a caregiver to an AIDS patient or donated your time to Taste of the Island.
We salute you whether you are a first responder or the last person out of the Pride Center at the end of a charity event, cleaning up after everyone else has left.
We salute you whether you run and lose your electoral race this past week, or will win and get to serve. We salute you for trying to make a difference.
The best way to remember Major Taylor’s effort is to bring peace to Afghanistan. Coalition forces are still being attacked. Soldiers are still dying.
After 17 years of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom,’ or whatever it is called today, Afghan citizens and allied soldiers are still dying in a land far away. Ask your congressmen what they have done to help bring an end the carnage.
Maybe it is time we elected a congress and senate focused on matters of consequence, and a president focused more on democracy rather than demagoguery.
Maybe then, peace will come- with luck and dedication to causes that matter, maybe within our lifetime.