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The Mayor, The Major and The Flag

July 5, 2019

Brent Taylor: Photo courtesy of Military Times

Brent Taylor was mayor of North Ogden, Utah. It located about 30 miles North of Salt Lake City. It’s just a little North of the city of Ogden.

His birthday is tomorrow, July 6. He would have been 40 years old. I say would have been because tragically he was killed in Afghanistan back in November. You see, Mayor Taylor was also Major Taylor, a member of the Utah Army National Guard. He served two tours in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan.

After Major Taylor’s death, not only his family, but his entire community mourned. One of the many tributes offered to him was from an organization called Follow The Flag. They took Big Betsy, a 75x155ft American flag to North Ogden and flew it in Coldwater Canyon. Big Betsy is the largest free-flying American flag in the world.

Big Betsy has travelled around the greater Utah area being displayed at baseball games and rodeos. It’s been carried in parades. But, it’s real home is stretched across Grove Creek Canyon in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

When the people at Follow The Flag heard about Major Taylor, they were happy to send Big Betsy North to help pay their respects. The community of North Ogden was touched by the gesture. She really is a magnificent sight stretched across a rock canyon blowing in the breeze. The community was inspired to start their own chapter of Follow The Flag.

The raised the money to buy their own flag. It’s a copy of Big Betsy, 75×155 feet. They named it The Major to honor the mayor and the soldier. It was scheduled to fly for the first time this fall on Veterans day.

Well, like I said, tomorrow is Major Taylor’s 40th birthday. His widow spoke on July 4th at the Dawn’s Early Light celebration in Pleasant Grove. She talked about her husband. She talked about how much it meant to her when Kyle Fox, and the Follow The Flag organization displayed the flag. It was an emotional moment.

And Big Betsy unfurled right on cue. It was a beautiful site. It was a beautiful morning. And a beautiful start to an Independence day.

It didn’t last. In the afternoon a microburst came through. Microbursts are exactly what they sound like: a very contained explosion of wind and rain. Winds whipped through Pleasant Grove at 30-40mph. They swirled, blowing North to South and then South to North. The explosion of weather caught everyone by surprise, including the people responsible for tending the Big Betsy stretched across the canyon. The damage was extensive and irrepairable.

A damaged Big Betsy hangs forlorn after a microburst damaged her

The Follow The Flag team was distraught. Kyle and his team made the difficult decision that Big Betsy had taken her last flight. But, what to do about a flag for the canyon? They have a smaller version called Little Betsy.

And then, they got a phone call. It was from the North Ogden chapter of Follow The Flag. They offered to bring The Major down and let him take the place of Big Betsy in Grove Creek Canyon.

Big Betsy will be retrieved and repaired. She’ll be used as a display flag. She’ll do duty at the rodeos and the baseball games. My friend Eric Scott described it as “retired to light duty.”

There’s currently a GoFundMe for replacing Big Betsy. Flags that size are between $15,00 and $20,000. You can donate here.

Hopefully she’ll be ready to go by Independence Day 2020. For this year, The Major will fill in.

The Major flying over Grove Creek Canyon with our broadcast trailer in the foreground.

And it’s only fitting that The Major will be flying on the mayor’s birthday.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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