A Symbol Of Hope And Remembrance: KSL TV Special Highlights Community Effort To Honor Brent Taylor
NORTH OGDEN, Utah — When the news came on November 3, 2018 that Brent Taylor, the mayor of North Ogden and a major in the Utah National Guard, had been killed in Afghanistan, it left his community stunned and heartbroken.
Brent’s friends struggled to know what to do to support the Taylor family in the days after his death. Kirk Chugg and Josh Johnson had an idea, but only a few days to pull it off. They reached out to Kyle Fox with Follow the Flag.
For the past few years on July 4th, Fox has rigged Big Betsy, the largest free-flying American flag in the country, to wave in the breeze in Grove Creek Canyon in Utah County to celebrate Independence Day.
Chugg said when he called Fox, he was hoping they could perhaps borrow some smaller flags for a vigil planned in North Ogden on Veterans Day. Fox offered up Big Betsy instead.
“Kyle was like, ‘Let’s go scout a canyon,’” said Chugg.
They determined Coldwater Canyon in North Ogden would be perfect.
“I told them, I have the flag, I have some rigging, I can tell you what to do, but you guys are going to have to be the man power on this one,” remembers Fox.
With only three days until Veterans Day, Chugg called an emergency meeting.
“We had search and rescue representatives. We had people who were part of the trail running community, we had people who were familiar with rigging and ropes and climbing,” said Chugg. “We assembled this dream team in a really short amount of time.”
Together, experts and volunteers hiked up Coldwater Canyon in the early hours of Sunday, November 11 to unfurl the flag as a surprise for the Taylor family, and especially Brent’s widow.
“We wanted to surprise Jennie,” said Chugg. “Jennie was my number one concern, that she would see the flag and know who it was for.”
Chugg arranged for Jennie Taylor’s sister to take her to Barker Park on Sunday morning.
“My sister picked me up and said she wanted to go show me something,” said Taylor. “I covered my eyes at first, and then opened them, and it was unbelievable to see it flying, just so large and wind up in that canyon, my home, and to be able to really feel the power of America – I didn’t know a flag that big existed. It felt like Brent has become larger than life.”
“I’ll never forget the look on her face,” said Chugg. “It was a magical morning.”
The flag hung until after Brent’s funeral on November 17.
“The day we took it down, everybody started to ask, ‘When’s another one going to fly?’” said Chugg. “We started fundraising the day the flag come down.”
With donations from businesses and community members, they quickly reached their $50,000 goal to purchase another 150-foot by 78-foot flag, all of the rigging, ropes, lighting and other supplies needed.
They hope to fly the flag in Coldwater Canyon each year from Election Day to Veterans Day.
“Hopefully [Brent’s] kids will see that flag fly in that canyon the rest of their lives and remember that we haven’t forgotten their dad,” said Chugg.
“We’ll know that it started the year Brent died, but that it represents a lot more than just him,” said Taylor. “It’s not our flag, it’s not our freedom and it’s not our banner, but we get to be a small part of that.”
Many words have been used to describe Brent Taylor: American hero, politician, husband, father and friend. The legacy he leaves in each of those roles is a thoughtful, deliberate approach to life, and a life worth emulating.
This Saturday, April 6 at noon, KSL TV will air “Service and Sacrifice: The Brent Taylor Story”. The program will explore Taylor’s commitment to God, family and country, and how those values shaped his life.
The documentary will also be available to stream live or on demand on ksltv.com, ksl.com, and the KSL TV app (available on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Google Play or on your phone).
The University of Utah has also set up a scholarship fund in Brent Taylor’s name. You can learn more about that here: https://poli-sci.utah.edu/giving/taylor.php.