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‘I’ve inherited my husband’s life’: Jennie Taylor confirmed as new aide to the Secretary of the Army

The Gold Star wife was sworn in Tuesday at the Pentagon, 14 months after her husband, then-mayor of North Ogden, was killed in action in Afghanistan

Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy greets Jennie Taylor of Utah as McCarthy hosts a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army Investiture Ceremony in the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., Jan. 14, 2020.
Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy greets Jennie Taylor of Utah as McCarthy hosts a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army Investiture Ceremony in the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., Jan. 14, 2020.
Sgt. Dana Clarke, U.S. Army

SALT LAKE CITY — Jennie Taylor, a Gold Star wife from North Ogden, was appointed as Utah’s newest Civilian Aide to the Secretary of Army during a ceremony at the Pentagon on Tuesday afternoon.

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy was in attendance to swear in Taylor and seven other aides.

“I took the same oath my husband took 17 years ago,” Taylor said of the emotional and exciting ceremony, “and I’ve never put on combat boots.”

Her husband, Maj. Brent Taylor of the Utah Army National Guard — and former mayor of North Ogden — was killed in Afghanistan on Nov. 3, 2018, during an insider attack that wounded another American soldier. Brent Taylor was part a U.S. Army unit training Afghan commandos.

Brent Taylor — who had volunteered for each of his four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Jennie Taylor said — had felt a call to public service since his childhood. He once told his high school senior class — as their class president — that the White House would host their 20-year reunion.

“I’ve inherited my husband’s life,” Jennie Taylor said of her husband’s passion for public service.

Walking around the Pentagon on Tuesday through “millions” of museum-like hallways, Jennie Taylor couldn’t help thinking she was walking where Brent Taylor may have been one day. She said there were many tears but also laughter throughout the day.

Her first day on the job as a Civilian Aide to Secretary of the Army — or simply, a CASA — was busy, full of training about what the CASA position entails, ethics and public affairs. There were opportunities to meet some of McCarthy’s staff and introductions to constellations of general officers and senior ranking military officers.

Jennie Taylor speaks during the annual Utah Eagle Forum convention in Sandy on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020.
Jennie Taylor speaks during the annual Utah Eagle Forum convention in Sandy on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020.
Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News

The CASA position is unpaid, but comes with the same formal military courtesies offered to a three-star general — in the Army, a lieutenant general.

There were a lot of “ma’ams,” Jennie Taylor said. She found herself calling people “sir” out of respect, then being corrected because the hierarchy of their relationships had changed.

As a CASA, Taylor will act as a liaison and representative of communities in Utah to McCarthy. In the secretary’s stead, Taylor will also be his representative to the Beehive State.

When she was offered the position, she saw it as an opportunity to represent Army families, a position she felt “uniquely qualified” for as a Gold Star wife.

“Strengthening our communities through strengthening our commitment to serve,” Taylor thought — through her family’s own example — was a way to enrich both the military and Utah.

“Long before I loved Brent Taylor, I loved America,” Jennie Taylor said. Her late husband would have agreed, she said in an interview Friday.

“I am us,” she said, reflecting after leaving the Pentagon and taking the D.C. metro to a nearby hotel Tuesday evening.

“One in marriage, one in purpose and one in a commitment to this country.”