WASHINGTON — After a whirlwind VIP experience in the nation's capital, emotions caught up with Jennie Taylor on Wednesday.
Standing at a podium before about 50 people gathered to honor the Gold Star wife, her voice broke as she reminded everyone gathered that it was three months ago today that her husband's remains returned to the United States from Afghanistan.
Maj. Brent R. Taylor, 39, was helping train Afghan forces when was killed and another U.S. soldier wounded on Nov. 3 in an insider attack at the Kabul Military Training Center.
"It is my greatest honor to be a Gold Star widow," said Jennie Taylor of North Ogden, Utah. "We have been treated like gold."
She said when she dwells on the loss of her husband and the challenge of raising their seven children, "the windows of heaven open" and people step in to offer support and memorable moments — like her time here.
Taylor was the guest of Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, to attend President Donald Trump's State of the Union address Tuesday. On Wednesday, she and her late husband's parents toured the White House, Library of Congress and the U.S. Capitol before settling down in a congressional hearing room for a reception in their honor.
Bishop said he invited her because of the ethic of sacrifice and service that was part of the Taylor family. Brent Taylor was also mayor of North Ogden.
"People can take courage from what this family has done before and since Nov. 3," Bishop said, after presenting her with a wood and glass case containing a U.S. flag that flew over the Capitol building on Nov. 3.
A resolution renaming the North Ogden Department of Veterans Affairs Outstation the Major Brent Taylor Vet Center Outstation passed the Senate on Tuesday and will get final approval in the House soon, Bishop said.
Also at the reception and offering remarks were Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, GOP Reps. Chris Stewart and John Curtis, and Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah.
The reception was a somber conclusion to a hectic two days for Jennie Taylor and her in-laws, Stephen and Tammy Taylor.
Jennie Taylor was seated in the gallery of the House for the State of the Union, and she told the reception gathering that one of the most moving moments for her was when the president recognized three World War II veterans and a Holocaust survivor, who was liberated from Dachau Nazi concentration camp by the veteran he was sitting next to.
She noted how that moment put her husband's sacrifice in perspective — that their family's experience is one of thousands. "It's not just his legacy but those before who gave their lives for us," she said. "It's not just Brent and Jennie Taylor's story; this is America's story."
Brent Taylor was a patriot from the time he was a child growing up in Chandler, Arizona. His father and mother, Stephen and Tammy, said he was always interested in politics. Stephen Taylor said his son took a handful of soil and a flag with him whenever he went overseas — even for his church mission — and said the Pledge of Allegiance every day.
As senior class president, Brent told the student body that their 20-year reunion would be in the White House, Stephen said.
The Taylors thought of that bold prediction as they toured the White House early Wednesday. Jennie Taylor asked to have a picture of her taken at the gate in front of the president's residence in the same place Brent had his photo taken in 2003. He had taken a trip to Washington when he was a BYU student and member of the Young Republicans, before he and Jennie met.
"I had to recreate that iconic photo," Jennie said.
She said a common bond she always shared with her husband was a love of God and country.
Bishop had a rapt audience as he took the Taylors through the Capitol building, and the former high school AP history teacher relished the opportunity to point out details in the murals and architecture of the building. He began the tour in the narrow brick-lined basement tunnels and pointed out the incongruent wood-paneled ceilings, noting they were standing where the building's original bathhouse was.
"I'm a former high school history teacher, too, so I love all these little details," Jennie Taylor said.
Bishop also took the family to a place few outsiders visit — the Congressional Prayer Room, where an interior stained glass window depicts George Washington kneeling in prayer and is etched with the words of Psalm 16:1, "Preserve me, O God, for in thee do I put my trust," and from President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address, "This Nation Under God." The names of all 50 states are also inlaid in the glass. Two prayer altars and a Holy Bible are at the front of the small room in a hallway off the main rotunda.
Along the tour the Taylor family met members of Congress who, when introduced, expressed their condolences and thanked her for her husband's service and sacrifice.3 comments on this story
In his remarks at the reception, Stewart, a former Air Force pilot, said while the events of the day were to honor Brent Taylor, the families of fallen military men and women also make a sacrifice that should be recognized.
"Sacrifice of the spouses, the children, the parents and the brothers and sisters is not forgotten, and in a meaningful way they sacrifice more than the servicemen," Stewart said, turning to Jennie Taylor. "You are the one left with this great challenge ... teaching the children what their dad represented. And I say bless you in that."