A Utah Marine killed in Afghanistan last month was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday, with flags lowered to half staff in his honor in his home state.
Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, 31, was among 13 American service members who died Aug. 26 in a suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan amid the U.S. troop withdrawal. It was the deadliest attack on U.S. forces in more than 10 years during the prolonged war in Afghanistan.
Family and friends eulogized Hoover at a funeral service at the National Memorial Chapel followed by a graveside service at the cemetery. A horse-drawn caisson accompanied by a Marine band carried Hoover’s flag-draped casket to his final resting place.
Hoover’s father, Darin Hoover, said his son will always be his hero. His mother, Kelly Barnett, said her son constantly sought to improve himself. He believed in Jesus Christ, family, friends, loyalty and right and wrong, she said.
“He lived what he believed,” Barnett said.
Officials lowered the flags to half staff at the Utah Capitol on Friday morning. Gov. Spencer Cox asked all state government buildings to also lower flags in remembrance of Hoover’s service and sacrifice.
On Thursday, viewing was held in Hoover’s honor at Arlington National Cemetery, which is across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Hundreds of Utahns also paid their respects to the fallen soldier on Aug. 30 at a ceremony on the steps of the Utah State Capitol.
Hoover served five tours of duty with the Marines, including three deployments in Afghanistan, and earned multiple medals and awards for his service. Many of his fellow Marines saw Hoover as a father figure.
Family and friends gathered for a local memorial last Saturday on the football field at Hillcrest High School, where Hoover graduated and played football. People who attended the service said they wanted to celebrate his life. They wanted to show how he worked tirelessly to help others — even as thousands were scrambling to leave Afghanistan.
Hoover spent many long hours helping people flee Afghanistan during the chaotic U.S. troop withdrawal from the country after 20 years of war.
“To get as many women and children to safety, he wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t sleep. He stayed up and told his lieutenant, ‘I have to get back out there,’” Nicole Wiess, Hoover’s fiancé, said at the memorial.
Hoover and 12 others troops were securing an entrance to the Hamid Karzai International Airport screening the vulnerable Afghans trying to flee as the Taliban took over the country as U.S. forces pulled out last month. They were killed by an ISIS-K suicide bomber. More than 100 Afghans also died.
In honoring Hoover on the Senate floor earlier this month, Utah Sen. Mike Lee said the Marine understood the risks of his deployment.
“He knew what was at stake and what was on the line on the particular day,” he said, noting American civilians were warned not to go to the airport due to credible threats of an attack. “The Marines at the gate did not, of course, have the option of standing down or shirking their duty. They had a mission to complete.”
Hoover joined the Marines at age 19. Darin Hoover said earlier that his son was 11 years old when terrorists attacked New York and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001. From that moment on, Taylor knew he wanted to serve.
“He loved his country,” Darin Hoover said. “It meant more to him than anything else, besides his family.”