County residents honor
local soldier’s sacrifice
Joel Taylor laid to rest on the eve of Independence Day
By DAN PARSONS
PINETOWN — It seemed Thursday that every resident of Beaufort County had a personal connection to Army Spc. Joel Allen Taylor, or had reason to thank him for his service. One of their own was being laid to rest the day before Independence Day.
Local residents lined U.S. Highway 264 east of Washington and places along N.C. Highway 32 as the fallen Pinetown native’s body was carried from Washington to his place of burial. Taylor, 20, was killed June 24 by a roadside bomb while serving on his first tour in Iraq.
People caught in traffic by the procession, which stretched for more than a half-mile, exited their vehicles and stood at attention, hats in hands, hands on hearts. Those lining the road waved all sizes of American flags and held signs blessing Taylor.
The procession halted at the Taylor family cemetery — a grassy clearing beside N.C. 32 near Pinetown. It began in Washington at First Church of Christ following a funeral attended by hundreds of people touched by the young man’s life.
Just before his death, Taylor had spent two weeks’ leave in North Carolina with his family. Taylor’s brother, Spc. John Scott with the 82nd Airborne Division, thanked God Wednesday for that time with his brother.
Joel Taylor was the son of Caren Newman and Scottie Taylor, a captain with the Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS-Inspections Department. Their surviving son looked to them during his eulogy, acknowledging his own loss, but admitting their’s was worse.
Joel Taylor’s father said his son was “serving in the army of God in the Kingdom of Heaven,” and remembered his son as a young boy as he and his wife would lay him down to sleep.
All that spoke about Joel Taylor’s life described him as a person who lived life to the fullest. His childhood friend, Benjamin Boyd, said it was an inaccuracy to say Taylor’s life had been cut short by the bomb that killed him.
The hero was laid to rest with full military honors as the sun began to slant in the sky Thursday. A member of the First Squadron, Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, Joel Taylor’s tasseled hat and a pair of stirrups were laid atop his casket as it was set in place by a military detail. His brother removed the hat and stirrups so the flag draping the casket could be folded and presented to his family.
At times during the graveside ceremony, the wind picked up, cooling the hot day and causing nearby wind chimes to sing.
Neither the noise nor the weather were consolation to the fallen soldier’s father, who wrapped his arms around the folded flag that draped his son’s casket and wept. Joel’s mother buried her head into the arms of her husband, Tom Newman, weeping as bagpipers played “Amazing Grace.”
For his two years of service and his “commitment to America’s Global War on Terror,” Taylor received the Bronze Star among other citations, which were presented also to his family.
John Scott Taylor, in his eulogy, reminded those gathered that other men had earned the same medals of valor conferred upon his brother.
Joel’s father wished that those who had come to honor his son also honor the servicemen and servicewomen that continue the fight for which his son gave his life.