Ever since he was a little kid, Brent Taylor possessed a strong desire to serve his country. Growing up playing games such as “cops and robbers,” the future Utah Army National Guard major understood from an early age the difference between good and evil, while also harboring a passion for protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves. Coupled with bedtime stories exploring world history and family vacations to U.S. historical sites, Brent’s destiny to serve his country in the American military was pretty much written in stone.
After unsuccessfully trying to convince his mother to sign his enlistment papers at age 17, Brent finally fulfilled his dream to serve a few years later. Deeply affected by the terrorist attacks of 9/11, he began speaking with recruiters in 2003 and went on to enlist later that year. Over the course of his 15-year military career, Brent held various positions ranging from commissioned officer, to military intelligence sergeant, and ultimately major in the Utah Army National Guard. This also included serving multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“He was the guy who, if there was a need for help in a deployment, he wasn’t trying to dodge it,” Brent’s wife Jennie told The Federalist. “He was usually the first one to sign up, and really all of his deployments were voluntary. It wasn’t like he was just looking for a paycheck or free health care in the military. He really was fully invested.”
Brent’s final deployment came in 2018, when the Utah Army National Guard major was sent to Afghanistan to serve as a military advisor to assist in training Afghan commando units. As a way of improving his troops’ physical fitness, Brent regularly led his unit on a “ruck march” every Saturday, viewing the exercise as an important way to cultivate interpersonal relationships among his men.
Tragedy struck later that year, however, during a routine march in November 2018. While leading his team on a hike around the outskirts of Kabul, Brent was shot to death by one of the Afghan troops in his unit in what was later confirmed as an insider attack. Killed at the age of 39, Brent was survived by his wife Jennie and seven children, including an infant daughter who will grow up never knowing her father.
“I just remember the shock when they told me he had died on a ruck march, like are you kidding?” Jennie said. “He’s been through all these different interactions with terrorists and all kinds of battles and things, and they killed him on a ruck march.”
Politicians Failed Our Troops
While absolutely devastating, the death of Maj. Brent Taylor is one among the 2,448 U.S. service members who have been killed as a result of the War in Afghanistan. Like the Taylors, thousands of Gold Star families across the country have had to endure the pain and suffering of losing a loved one in our country’s longest war.
Why am I pissed about Afghanistan?
He could have spent more time with his kids. He could have walked my sisters down the aisle. He could have met his grandchildren. He could have taken his sons to Boy Scouts. He could have seen us graduate.
My father could have lived. pic.twitter.com/fmoN3cMN4X
— Sebastian Quaid (@realsebastianq) August 16, 2021
For nearly 20 years, American servicemen and women throughout the U.S. Armed Forces devoted their lives to defending the liberties of both the American and Afghan people in Afghanistan. They didn’t choose which war they fought in, or how it was conducted. Nor did they choose the circumstances they found themselves in on the battlefield. For the American soldier, individual freedom was and remains an ideal worth fighting for.
Yet despite spending trillions of dollars and being provided with the best fighting force in the world for nearly two decades, the head honchos who spend their days frolicking in the swamp of Washington, D.C., completely blew it. Throughout the past week, Americans across the nation have paid witness to the complete failure of U.S. political leadership as the Afghan government collapsed at the hands of the Taliban.
“It makes you sick to your stomach,” Jennie said in response to the ongoing dilemma. “To me, it’s gotten worse every day. You know, at first it seems as bad as it was last week. And then it got worse over the weekend. And now as we get into the middle of this week and more information is coming out, it feels like it’s an even bigger blunder.”
While our troops showed up and did their jobs, the same can’t be said for our nation’s political and military leadership. As they sat twiddling their thumbs in their lavish, air-conditioned workspaces in Washington, our men and women in uniform were busy getting shot at and bombed in what can only be described as hell on earth, risking their lives for a fight they were determined to win.
Not only should our nation’s leadership receive our total contempt for their blatant incompetency, but they also deserve to be fired, court-martialed, impeached, or whatever other legal means available to ensure they are held accountable.
Was It Worth It?
In closing my conversation with Jennie Taylor, I asked the mother of seven what advice she could give to the thousands of Gold Star families and Afghanistan veterans who find themselves disheartened and questioning the worth of the war itself. Her answer was poignant.
“I feel the pain and I echo the anguish. I don’t want to act like I don’t feel that I’m not experiencing that right with everyone,” she said. “But I also want to make sure that the message is delivered to hold your head up high. How dare we sit back and think this was a waste, or let it be a waste? It’s devastating what’s happening in Afghanistan, but it almost hurts on a whole different level to see my own countrymen, servicemen who fought with or near where my husband was, or other widows or families like mine that have buried someone, thinking and really internalizing that this might have been a total waste. And I just say absolutely not.”
“We can’t let it be a waste. We can’t let it go backward now. We can’t control everything, but at the end of the day, what are we doing as Americans back here to make sure that the sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of men and women throughout American history are worth it? I hope Gold Star families hold their heads high and that they are proud of their loved ones every bit as much today as they were the day they died,” she added.
While Americans are more than welcome to debate how the War in Afghanistan was managed all they wish, one thing remains certain: The bravery and sacrifice of our American troops cannot and should not go ignored. Their sacrifices for the greater good are emblematic of what our country is all about. Irrespective of our thoughts on the war or politics, making sure our troops know nothing but everlasting gratitude should come before anything else.