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...who more than self their country loved...

Politics freak me out.  Not the laws, or the offices, or the ideas, but rather the anger, the bullying, and how in your face people get.  I feel like all too often we forget that we are actually on the same team here.  Just because we have different opinions about guns or health care, doesn't mean we don't all want a better country.  A safer country.  A kinder country.  Sometimes I want to tell everyone to take a deep breath and go back to their corner for crying out loud, but that is a topic for another day.

The last ten days have been harrowing around here.  I reside in the beautiful town of North Ogden, Utah, and eleven days ago we lost our mayor while he bravely served our country overseas.  Major Brent Taylor left behind a beautiful wife, seven children--the youngest just 11 months old and the oldest a student where I teach, and an intensely supportive community.  I've shared several social media posts over the last few days, but haven't sat down to explain my own feelings on the matter.  I'm not a lover of feelings, so getting real about things also freaks me out.  However, after today I have to share my thoughts.  

I remember last January when the students of Orion Junior High lined the street and waved at the convoy escorting Mayor Taylor to the airport for his year long deployment.  We waved, and cheered, and felt pride in having a small part in the patriotism spreading through our little town.  And then we went about our lives.  But not the Taylor family.  The Taylor family was reminded day in and day out that their father was gone.  Jennie woke up alone every morning for 11 months, and ran a household by herself.  I came across reminders now and again of Mayor Taylor and his service--a banner on Washington boulevard, seeing his wife with her kids in the hall at school--but the thought left my mind as quickly as it entered.  That is why I was so surprised at just how affected I felt when I first saw the news that Major Brent Taylor had died in an insider attack in Afghanistan.  I felt sick.  My mind raced to Jennie, and Megan--their oldest, and the rest of the kids.  Jacob is in Rhett's class at school.  And all of a sudden the entire thing was personal.  He was MY mayor.  His daughter went to MY school.  His son was in MY son's class.  The somberness spread like wildfire.  The reverence in North Ogden was palpable, but the thing that impressed me the most was just how quickly people started to take action.  Less than 24 hours later flags lined the streets of North Ogden leading to city hall and the main flag at half mast.  Fundraiser accounts were set up.  Meals were organized for the family.  Ceremonies, candle light vigils, even requests to name the new North Ogden amphitheatre after him came rolling in.  The biggest, and most miraculous in my opinion, thing came a week later on Veterans Day. 


Sunday morning my family readied and headed to church.  As we pulled out of the garage, Rhett noticed that our mountain--meaning the one directly in front of our house--had a new accessory.  It was that exact moment that we first caught a glimpse of Big Betsy.  We had no idea that as we were just rousing from our beds, citizens from our town were hauling a 400 pound flag up a canyon--over a mile--and hanging it for the rest of us to be amazed at.  We had no idea that the biggest free flying flag in the world was gracing the people of North Ogden, nor could we believe just how beautiful it was.  There, against the mountainous backdrop we saw it billowing in the breeze; hanging steady and sure through the night lit up by a spot light, and saying good morning as we were blessed by the chance to wake up again and go to work.  Cars slowed down to admire it from a distance.  People hiked the trail to get a closer look.  And no one could open social media without seeing a video or still shot of all it's glory.  Every time I see it, I feel my eyes sting and my nose tingle.  Every time I see it, I feel a surge of pride burst through my veins.  I have never felt more proud to be an American, or what's more, a citizen of North Ogden.  Can we take a minute to awe over the heart in the stars above that flag in the picture above? Wowzer.

I watched Jennie Taylor deliver an eloquent message of patriotism and service as her husband landed on American soil.  I watched as the entire Utah National Guard men and women came to the NAL match at our school to support Megan Taylor when her father couldn't.  I watched as the voting lines were outrageous and gave credit to the final lines Mayor Taylor wrote on his facebook page:  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.  Mayor Taylor understood it. 
I watched as flags once again lined the main road through our town as Mayor Taylor was finally home.  I watched as random people gathered to collect trash and clean up that street so he knew we took pride in our home too.  I watched the live stream of the procession as they perused down the freeway while I readied my children and loaded them in the car.  I watched as crowds lined the streets holding tissues and flags awaiting the arrival of Brent Taylor and his family.  I watched as the police escort burst onto that street and felt the humility and reverence and gratitude emanating from the crowd.  I watched as his remains drove by, and I saw the emotion in his wife as she followed in the van behind him. I watched as the motorcycle gang brought up the rear.  I watched as my son took it all in, including the tears openly streaming down my cheeks.   I wept for his wife.  I wept for his children.  I wept for my town.  I wept for my country.  And I wept for just how lost I realized the world was.  I thought of the fighting, both domestic and abroad, both physical and verbal.  I wanted to grab the world by the shoulders and give it a good shake.

 

As I walked my boys back to the car, I was approached by an older woman.  She told me she thought it was very neat that I would brave the cold and the crowd to show my boys what was taking place.  I told her that I felt like there was no where more important for us to be, and that my son was a classmate of the Taylor boy and he wanted to support his buddy.  She got emotional as Rhett explained that Mayor Taylor was a real life superhero, like all the soldiers.  Superheroes fight to keep people safe, and that is exactly what they were out there doing.  She told me she actually didn't live in North Ogden, but wanted to come see the procession.  She told me that today was her 53rd wedding anniversary, but that she lost her soldier when she was 39.  There were no words to express at that point, so we just shared a glance and cried together.  

Today it seems less important that I've restarted the dryer 3 times because I was too busy cleaning up spilled fiiz drinks and colored pencils to get to folding.  It seems less important that Rhett wouldn't let me do his hair before school, or that Larsen's clothes don't match.  It seems less important that my grading isn't done, or that I forgot to grab tortillas when I went to the store earlier.  Today what seems important to me is just how divided I feel people are getting.  Today that flag hanging on the mountain is important.  And today I feel pride in being an American who lives in the land of the free because of the brave, even if it means I've been crying, uncharacteristically, for hours. I don't know what it feels like to say goodbye to my husband while he goes to war.  I don't know what it feels like to leave my family and go protect people in a far away place.  I don't know what it feels like to open my front door to soldiers there to deliver the news of my worst nightmare.  I do know how it feels to care, and I do know how it feels to be completely heartbroken and concerned for your neighbor.  I do know how it feels to worry and wonder, and feel complete gratitude and inadequacy.  Today I'll squeeze my boys a little tighter, and hold their dad a little closer.  Family is important, and community, and being strong enough to rely on each other.  Today I remember that we are all on the same team, regardless of party or religion or social status.

Oh beautiful for heroes proved, in liberating strife
Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.
America, America may God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness, and every gain divine. 

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