Taylor’s comrades visit Berne

Authored by Jim Langham on Oct 3, 2012

Comrades of local young man, Nick Taylor, whose life was tragically taken during an insurgent attack in Afghanistan on July 16, paid a visit to Taylor’s parents on Monday afternoon.
Patrick Bogacz of Griffith and Kyle Leonard, of Valparaiso, visited the home of Tim and Stephania Taylor. In the evening, there was a public reception for the young men at Swiss Village.
Both men were on the same mission with Taylor when his platoon was fired on with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms while clearing bombs in Kandahar Province. Another Indiana man, Sergio Perez, of near Crown Point, was also killed in the incident. Both Taylor and Perez were members of the Valparaiso-based 713th Engineer Company.
Bogacz said that he met Taylor several months earlier when they started training together. Their preparation occurred in bases at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and Fort Bliss, Texas, home of the United States Army Air Defense Artillery School.
“Nick was an awesome kid,” said Bogacz. “He was always in a good mood; he always made you smile. He was always cheering everyone up.
“He was very outgoing,” continued Bogacz. “There was always a group of guys in his room.”
Leonard, a Sergeant First Class, was the commander in charge of that fateful mission on July 16.
“We were supposed to clear a route for an infantry operation behind us,” Leonard said. “We were supposed to clear a route for Key Leader Engagements to come to a certain town.
“They were two minutes behind us,” continued Leonard.
“Unfortunately, insurgents came in with machine guns and small arms fire. They came from all sides,” described Leonard. “I was about 50 feet from the vehicle Nick was in when it was shot. My goal was to get him out as fast as possible. They were shot at 8:59 a.m. and medical assistance was there by 9:05 a.m.”
Leonard said that his first initial response was to shoot as many insurgents as possible without shooting anyone locally. Leonard said that he felt especially close to Taylor because he had trained him throughout his preparation for military service in the field.
“I’m a little biased but I really liked Nick,” said Leonard. “We, as platoon sergeants, aren’t supposed to hang out with our guys, but some days it didn’t matter. I hung out with him anyways. He was always smiling and always happy.”
Bogacz said that when he heard that Perez had been killed, he started punching the seat on his truck. Then, when he heard that Taylor’s life had also been taken, he started to cry. He said that he went back to the base and broke down.
“Usually when something like that happens, they shut off all Internet so we can’t talk to people,” said Bogacz. “The Army wants to tell the family first. Then they call us together and we go to the chapel and talk about it.
“We were very close-knit,” continued Bogacz. “We were usually in the same truck. This time I was on the same mission with him but in a different truck.”
Both soldiers, who are now on their way home from Afghanistan, saw a good deal of Taylor’s service at the high school. They also saw the 21-gun salute at the cemetery. For the ceremony, Bogacz had contributed one of the letters that had been read in the service.
Leonard, who is in full-time military service, will remain on active guard duty.
This past weekend was a very special time for the Taylors. The U.S. Army had made it possible for all six families who had lost children from the 713th Engineer Company to travel to Fort Bliss to meet the platoon as it returned to El Paso from service.
Each family was presented with an American flag that had flown over the main base at Kandahar.
“We looked forward to meeting these guys,” said Stephania Taylor, who said that they had met the soldiers on one other occasion.
“We wanted to express to these guys through everything that happened how much we appreciated their positive relationship with Nick,” said Stephania. “We want to love on them and welcome them home; it brings much healing on our part.”
“We hope that our friendship with them continues. We want them to always feel like they have a comfortable home to come to at our house. This is a good connection,” commented Tim Taylor.
“When we saw them the first time, there were some tears. This time there is lots of laughter,” added Stephania.

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