Memorials honor Sgt. Taylor Hoover, Utah native and Hillcrest alumnusSep 29, 2021 12:51PM ● By Justin Adams
Photographs of Ssgt. Taylor Hoover and hundreds of flags decorated the football field at Hillcrest High on Sept. 18 at a community memorial for the Utah soldier killed in Afghanistan. (Heather Lawrence/City Journals)
By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]
On Aug. 26, an ISIS suicide bomber attacked the Kabul, Afghanistan airport during an evacuation. Thirteen U.S. service members were killed in the attack. Several others were injured, in addition to dozens of Afghan civilians. Utah native Marine Corps Staff Sergeant D. Taylor Hoover was one of the servicemen who died.
The first of many Utah memorials to honor Hoover was Aug. 29 at the state capitol building. It was attended by hundreds of people.
On Sept. 11, a Sandy senior living community honored Hoover with a balloon release and drive-by parade.
“Ssgt. Hoover is a Sandy native. Our wellness director Katelen Perfili had the incredible idea of holding an event on Sept. 11 to honor him and his sacrifice,” said Austin Sorenson, executive director of Cedarwood at Sandy.
It was a fitting day for the tribute: family and friends say the 9/11 attack was Hoover’s motivation for choosing the military as a career, though he was only 11 years old at the time.
“Many of our residents have served in the military or have spouses who have served. This type of event hits many tender feelings of the heart. It was really special and emotional. It was a beautiful feeling of unity and patriotism,” Sorenson said.
On Sept. 18, a memorial was held at Hillcrest High School on the football field. Hoover played football at Hillcrest and graduated in 2008. The memorial was conducted by family friend Kevin Salmon.
Speakers included Hoover’s uncles; his dad Darin Hoover, mom Kelly Barnett and sisters Tori Manning and Allison Dillon; church youth leader Eric Hoffman; fiancée Nicole Weiss and best friend Kayleigh Snedeger.
Speakers noted that Hoover was deployed three times. A decorated soldier, he earned the Combat Action Ribbon and the Purple Heart.
Utah band Dyer Highway, who Snedeger said “dropped everything to be here,” performed their song “This Country Stands.” A former football coach at Hillcrest High led a traditional Polynesian Haka dance on the field.
Hoffman said earlier in the day he met someone whose life Hoover had saved in Kabul “just minutes before he himself was killed. Taylor didn’t just protect Americans, he protected Afghan civilians. He served so he could help anyone who was suffering from tyranny and oppression,” Hoffman said.
Marci Houseman of the Sandy City Council said helping to organize the event was a powerful experience she will never forget. She was contacted by Gold Star widow Jenny Taylor of Ogden. Taylor said the Hoovers needed help organizing a memorial and wanted to have it at Hillcrest.
“We organized this within a matter of a week so the Hoover family could have a local memorial before going to Arlington for the burial. Organizing it was an incredibly collaborative process. Everyone we talked to just said yes, from the school to the local leaders to service groups,” Houseman said.
Houseman, whose father was in the army, wanted the family to feel the love of the community down to the way the field was decorated. “I wanted them to feel like they were being wrapped in a hug.”
She posted a notice on the website Justserve.org and got volunteers to come Saturday morning and set up over 500 flags around Hillcrest’s field and along 900 East.
“Volunteers included students, groups from Beaver and Lehi, and the Maj. Brent R. Taylor Battalion of U.S. Naval Sea Cadets. I could go on and on about how many people answered the call to help this family,” Houseman said.
The hundreds of flags created a powerful backdrop for the service, and were visible to anyone driving along 900 East that day.
A GoFundMe account raised over $140,000 for Hoover’s family. Final donations will be delivered to his mother. The organizers were fellow marines who served with Hoover: Ryan Matthews, Jared Charpentier, Anthony Pen, Dillon Stephens and Hunter Spiri.
“Staff Sergeant Taylor Hoover made the ultimate sacrifice defending Afghan civilians and leading fellow Marines,” the organizers wrote in the fundraiser description. “On Aug. 26, 2021, he and some of his younger Marines were on security at the [Kabul] airport when they were engaged by enemy combatants…ultimately taking his life. His selfless service and courage are remembered by those who served with him and those who knew him. Semper Fi, God bless.”