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‘Special among us’ Nick Taylor’s life celebrated before over 4,000 ‘friends’

August 1, 2012

(Photo by J Swygart)

    Nick Taylor was remembered as a leader, a patriot, "an amazing soldier" and dearly missed son, brother and friend during funeral services Tuesday in Berne.
    More than 4,000 of Taylor's "friends" crowded into the same South Adams High School gymnasium where he had accomplished some of his most remarkable athletic feats to pay tribute to the young man from their community who gave his life for his country and the cause of freedom.
    Spc. Taylor and Spc. Sergio Eduardo Perez Jr. of Crown Point died in a July 16 attack in Kandahar province in Afghanistan. They were members of a bomb-clearing unit from the Valparaiso-based 713th Engineer Company of the Indiana National Guard.
    During Tuesday's funeral ceremonies, Taylor was posthumously presented with the Bronze Star for meritorious service, the Purple Heart, and the Combat Action Badge.
    Tuesday's 90-minute service was highlighted by songs of praise and adulation, the reading of scripture, and remarks from Taylor's family, his pastor and military and government officials.
    "We are here to honor the expressed wishes of the Taylor family that this be a celebration of Nick's life," said Rev. Max Haines, pastor of the First Missionary Church in Berne. "He was special among us ... a good man who loved his Lord and his family. Nick was a Christian, and today he is celebrating eternal life in heaven. He sacrificed his earthly life for us and his colleagues in Afghanistan. Today we celebrate his eternal life."
    Stephania Taylor, Nick's mother, addressed the large crowd and thanked everyone present for their prayers during a difficult time.
    "This is not the way we had planned for Nick to come home, but this community's love and support was overwhelming," Mrs. Taylor said through tears.
    "I want to share with you a conversation I had with Nick just a few weeks ago," his mother continued. "He said he was ready .. should anything happen to him. I have complete assurance of where Nick is today. My spirit is at peace, but I sure miss my baby boy."
    Mrs. Taylor said that, during the past two weeks, "I have gained a new understanding of the love God has for us. God didn't take Nick from us — the world did. God was waiting for him with open arms when he came home."

    General R. Martin Umbarger, Adjutant General of the Indiana National Guard, said his presence at Taylor's funeral was as a representative "for 14,000 Indiana National Guardsmen who are mourning the loss of a brave soldier."
    Among those hearing the message were member's of Taylor's unit in Afghanistan, who viewed the ceremonies live via Skype.
    Unbarger read statements from several of Spc. Taylor's fellow Guardsmen, one of whom described his fallen comrade as "one of a kind ... an amazing soldier."
    Taylor's squad leader said in his letter, "Nick had this smile that I will never forget, and my life will forever be changed because of meeting him. He was a model soldier — what all Guardsmen should strive to be."
    Umbarger said Taylor "is a hero, in every sense of the word, because freedom is purchased with the lives of patriots. I thank you, Spc. Taylor, for your service and sacrifice."
    Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was also on hand for Tuesday's funeral and said he was serving "as the surrogate for 6.5 million people in the state of Indiana who are mourning this brave soldier."
    Daniels said he learned a lot about Taylor's character while talking with people closest to soldier. "And it reminded me about a phrase we used to hear about when I was growing up — The All-American Boy. It seems that model had many of the traits Nick Taylor embodied. It was all about character and doing the right thing and caring about other people. Nick Taylor was an all-American boy.
    "Now we owe a debt to Nick that can never be paid. Specialist Taylor — Indiana thanks you," said Daniels. "We will weep, and we will honor."
    State Rep. Matt Lehman shared his memories of watching Taylor's exploits on the athletic fields and floors.
    "We hear all the time about people who give 110 percent. Well, that was Nick," said Lehman. "He left nothing on the field, the track or the mat. He proudly wore the black and gold of South Adams. But Nick also loved his country, and he traded in the South Adams Star for a flag on his sleeve. We all sleep better at night knowing the Nick Taylors and Sergio Perezes of this world are protecting us."
    Offering condolences and leading a scripture reading during the ceremony was Sen. Travis Holdman. Vocal selections were presented by The First Missionary Church Quartet members Mike WIlson, Brian Habegger, Neil Potter and Randy Kistler; Mark Wynn, Deby Steiner and Chelsea Bollenbacher.
    The services concluded with a bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace."
    Following the service, Spc. Taylor's body was placed aboard a horse-drawn carriage for the trip to M.R.E. Cemetery. Citizens lined the streets of Berne to say one final farewell to their fallen hero.

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