Veteran's widow says Taliban takeover 'heartbreaking'

By Tim Vandeneack
Associated Press

North Ogden, Utah — Seeing the collapse of the government of Afghanistan following the departure of U.S. forces from the country, seeing the Taliban take control, is tough for Jennie Taylor.

“It’s heartbreaking. I don’t know if there’s another word for it,” the North Ogden woman told the Standard-Examiner. Her late husband, Brent Taylor, a major in the Utah Army National Guard, died in late 2018 while on a tour of duty in Afghanistan, so the recent turn of events hits close to home.

In this May 29, 2020 photo,  Jennie Taylor, looks through printed pictures of her husband Maj. Brent Taylor and his time in Afghanistan in her North Ogden, Utah home.

At the same time, though, she’s adamant on another point. That the U.S. left the country, that the U.S. push to promote democracy in the nation has collapsed doesn’t mean the efforts weren’t worth it. Her husband, killed when a member of the Afghan special forces contingent he was helping train turned on him and attacked him, served in Afghanistan with the aim of fighting the terrorists in a country that posed a threat to the United States.

“Does it all work out right in the end? Not always. Sometimes the bad guy wins. But what if men and women weren’t willing to fight that fight? The price of freedom is immeasurably high,” she said.

That is, her husband and the other U.S. military forces who served in the country went in aiming to defeat an enemy intent on wreaking havoc on the sorts of freedoms taken for granted in the West. That the efforts didn’t yield the sought-after results shouldn’t stain their service.

Brent Taylor and his military counterparts served knowing that victory wasn’t guaranteed, Jennie Taylor said. “They died trying to defeat that enemy, knowing the enemy might not be defeatable. But that doesn’t mean they backed away and said, ‘Nah, it’s not worth it.’”

Indeed, in the wake of the Taliban takeover, she hears rumblings and suggestions that U.S. efforts in Afghanistan were in vain, a waste even. While reserving judgement on what the U.S. approach should have been in winding down Afghan operations, she bristles at such second-guessing.

“The biggest heartache for me is to see other Gold Star families or other surviving military personnel saying, ‘Was this all in vain? Was this all a waste?’ And I have to say absolutely not, absolutely not. We cannot let ourselves down that path and say this was a waste. We can’t say it’s a waste to fight for freedom or it’s a waste to try to share democracy or it’s a waste to fight for women’s rights,” she said. “We can’t ever say it’s a waste to lay down your life for the greater good of humanity.”

Gold Star families are the survivors of military personnel who’ve died while serving.

To be sure, evaluating U.S. involvement around the world is important. “We do need to look at what our role is in the world. We do need to look at how we can help other nations, help other populations,” she said.

At the same time, though, there are greater goods worth defending. She noted the subservient status women have held under the Taliban and her own daughter’s dreams of one day attending law school.

Women living in the Taliban system “can’t even dream like that. The opportunity’s not even available to them,” Jennie Taylor said. “So you can’t tell me it’s not worth it. My husband died thinking it was worth it to him to fight for those opportunities for the Afghan people. He loved them.”