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Afghan Pilot Writes Moving Tribute to Fallen American Soldier 


A transfer case containing the remains of Maj. Brent R. Taylor sits on a loader at the Dover Air Force Base, Del., Nov. 6, 2018. According to the Department of Defense, Taylor, 39, of Ogden, Utah, died Nov. 3, 2018, in Kabul province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained from small-arms fire.

The Afghan pilot who penned a moving letter to the wife and seven children of a U.S. service member and city mayor killed in Afghanistan told VOA he wrote the tribute to let them know how much their husband and father had inspired him.

Maj. Abdul Rahman Rahmani, a special mission pilot who served alongside slain Utah National Guardsman Maj. Brent Taylor on multiple missions, said Taylor would give his Afghan counterparts "pages for positivity" and often had discussions about the future of Afghanistan.

"You would be motivated throughout the day," Rahmani said. "He was an amazing guy. He was really, really incredible."

In the letter, which Rahmani said he never expected to go viral, he told Taylor's wife, Jennie, that Taylor "taught me to love my wife, Hamida, as an equal and treat my children as treasured gifts."

Importance of kindness

When Taylor overheard him quarreling with Hamida over the phone one day, Rahmani said the American told him about the importance of being "respectful and kind" to family.

"In fact, he encouraged me to apologize to my wife, and that was the first time I apologized to her," Rahmani said.

Taylor, 39, was killed last Saturday while on patrol when an Afghan soldier attacked him. Other Afghan fighters quickly killed the assailant, according to NATO.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, left, salutes as an Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Maj. Brent R. Taylor at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, left, salutes as an Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Maj. Brent R. Taylor at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

A friend of Taylor’s who serves in the same political circles as the North Ogden Mayor Adam Gardiner said the soldier was "100% for doing what he thought was right, all the time."

Gardiner said many times the two would start talking or texting about politics but would end up talking about their families.

"I know how much those kids and his wife meant to him," he said, calling Taylor's death "the definition of selfless sacrifice."

The body of the fallen soldier, mayor, husband and father returned to the United States as millions of Americans voted in local, state and national elections. In a Facebook post just days before his death, Taylor pleaded with Americans to vote, stressing that there was "far more as Americans that unites us than divides us."

'Only fitting'

"It seems only fitting that Brent, who in death now represents so much more, something so much greater than any of our own individual lives, has come home to U.S. soil in a flag-draped casket on our Election Day," Jennie Taylor told reporters as she received his body.

Gardiner, who is running for Salt Lake County recorder, choked up when talking about Jennie's comments.

“How could you do anything but not try and do your best on Election Day? To sit around and mope or not focus is something that would be unrelateable to Brent,” he said.

Thousands of miles away in Afghanistan, Rahmani told VOA he hoped the Taliban would see his letter and realize that the "bonds" of "unity" formed between U.S. and Afghan service members "would not be shaken by these kinds of incidents."

Rahmani, who has been wounded twice and has lost several family members during the war, vowed to persevere in the fight for his homeland.

"This country needs people to defend it. You know, if I leave this country, if I quit, who is going to take this responsibility?" he said. "I want to be one."

Rahmani spoke with VOA's News Center and VOA's Afghan service for this report.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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