By Tina Comeau
Kirk Taylor lived everyday like it was a celebration, according to his friend Wayne Zwicker. Every day was worth living, because everyday something new was going to happen and by the end of the day, somewhere, something good was going to happen too.
And so while more than 2,000 people gathered at the Mariners Centre on Monday for a funeral to mourn the death of the Canadian soldier who died in Afghanistan on Dec. 30, they also gathered to celebrate his life. “There’s no doubt Kirk would want everyone of us at the end of this to go, say our peace . . . and then get on with life and enjoy and start finding all of the good again,” said Zwicker during the Jan. 11 service. “Kirk wanted everyone to live like he did . . . At the end of the day we all know something good or something funny that happened with him that we can draw strength on to keep going.”
Zwicker shared a story about a time when he and Taylor were Gagetown. Taylor had nothing in his kit bag and Zwicker couldn’t figure out why, until he left the room one day and game back to find his own kit bag empty on the bed. “I turn around and there’s Kirk standing there with two great big armloads of kit and a bag of my Fuzzy Peaches hanging out of his mouth, and he looked just like a chipmunk that had just found a mother-load of nuts,” said Zwicker, as people laughed at the thought of Taylor’s antics. “It dawned on me why he didn’t bring very much kit. He had no intention of having to carry it.”
Sergeant Taylor was one of four Canadian soldiers who died when a roadside bomb exploded near their light armoured vehicle. A Canadian journalist was also killed. He had been deployed to Kandahar in October as a CIMIC operator with the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team. He was scheduled to come home in May.
The day before he died, Taylor spoke with his brother Jim Wickens for about an hour. Wickens said he was truly amazed by how excited his brother was about all of the small things – from Wickens getting some new work boots, to his failed attempt at peanut butter balls.
The next day, on Wicken’s birthday, his brother died. “Knowing that Kirk passed away on my birthday will not break me. It will make a stronger person, fill me with pride and honour knowing that he’ll be with me in years to come,” Wickens said. “Kirk was an amazing young man and I’m very proud of everything that he accomplished in a short life.”
Those accomplishments, aside from his military career as a reservist that started when he joined the Canadian Forces in April 2000, included being a team leader with the Yarmouth County Ground Search and Rescue Team and working with YACRO where he was not only concerned for those with challenges, but he sought to make a difference in their lives and the quality of their lives. He was involved with the army cadets and sea cadets. His life touched the lives of many in southwestern Nova Scotia. He was born in Yarmouth and lived in Yarmouth County prior to his deployment, but he spent much of his life growing up in Shelburne County.
Kirk Taylor didn’t have to go to Afghanistan. But he wanted to. “A lot has been said about Sgt. Taylor having the choice as a reservist to serve in Afghanistan. There was no requirement, no orders, no expectation for him to leave his girlfriend, his family, his friends and his work,” said Major Gus Garant, Battery Commander with the 84th Independent Field Battery. “He made that choice because he felt the need to make a contribution just like he did with the 84th.”
Despite the large number of people gathered in the Mariners Centre on Monday, there was a prolonged, deep silence inside the main ice arena as people waited for the ceremony to begin and as members of Taylor’s family entered the arena. Taylor is survived by his mother Tina Smith, his girlfriend Felicia Raymond, and his brother and sister Jim and Stephanie Wickens.
Sgt. Taylor’s flag-draped casket was brought into the Mariners Centre on an artillery gun carriage.
Before he left for Afghanistan, Taylor had written a letter and left instructions with his friend Wayne Zwicker. The letter contained a message outlining his thoughts and faith in the Afghan mission. The instructions listed what he wanted done at his funeral if he died while overseas.
And so as per his instructions, his friend Tonya Boudreau sang Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. And Reverend Bill Newell helped to conduct the service. Taylor’s sense of humour was evident in the instructions he left behind. “He asked if I would conduct (the service) and one thing he noted in his letter to Wayne was I wasn’t supposed to be long winded,” said Rev. Newell.
Meleena Amirault, a member of the Memorial Club, sang the song Another Soldier’s Coming Home. And Boudreau also sang Farewell to Nova Scotia.
Prior to the funeral service, Brigadier General Dave Neasmith, Commander of Land Force Atlantic Area, spoke to reporters about Sgt. Taylor. “Sgt. Taylor died making a difference for those who could not help themselves in Afghanistan,” he said. “He was an outstanding solider, he was an outstanding citizen, he was an outstanding individual.”
Following the funeral a private family burial service was held. A firing party made up of soldiers from the 1st Field Artillery Regiment (Halifax-Dartmouth) was on hand at the internment service and fired a feu de joie in honour of their fallen comrade during the internment service. The feu de joie was fired from the C7 service rifle using blank ammunition.
Meanwhile, as people left the Mariners Centre at the end of the funeral on Monday – both those who knew and loved Taylor, and others who had never met him, but wanted to pay their respects – the words spoken during the service remained with them, included those spoken about Taylor by his friend Leland Whitman.
Said his friend, “He continuingly gave of himself, and gave of himself freely, in his work, with his friends, in his community and for his country.”
See video images from Sgt. Kirk Taylor's funeral at:
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Sgt. Kirk Taylor's flag-draped casket is carried into his funeral service on Monday, after entering the Mariners Centre on an artillery gun carriage. Tina Comeau photo
Members of the Memorial Club stood with flags outside the Mariners Centre on Monday, lining the drive with flags. MICHAEL GORMAN PHOTO
Members of the Memorial Club stood with flags outside the Mariners Centre on Monday, lining the drive with flags, as the hearse carrying Sgt. Kirk Taylor arrives. MICHAEL GORMAN PHOTO
Outside the Mariners Centre on Monday. Sgt. Kirk Taylor's casket was brought into the Mariners Centre on an artillery gun carriage. MICHAEL GORMAN PHOTO
Michael Gorman photo
Tina Comeau photo
Sgt. Taylor's casket enters the Mariners Centre. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Pallbearers that were part of his military family and friends escorted his casket into the Mariners Centre. Tina Comeau photo
The Monday, Jan. 11 funeral of Sgt. Kirk Taylor. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
TINA COMEAU PHOTO
TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Rev. Bill Newell speaks during the funeral. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Sgt. Taylor's friend Tonya Boudreau sings Knockin' on Heaven's Door. The friends has met through Taylor's work at YACRO. Before heading to Afghanistan he had left instruction that if he didn't return that this song by sung at his funeral. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Sgt. Taylor's friend Wayne Zwicker eulogized his friend. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Earlier in the ceremony. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Many people attended the funeral to pay their respects. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Prior to the ceremony, Brigadier General Dave Neasmith spoke about Sgt. Taylor calling him an oustanding individual and an outstanding soldier. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Veterans and legion members were among those in attendance. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
The artillery gun carriage also escorted Sgt. Taylor's casket out of the Mariners Centre.
Sgt. Taylor's casket is prepared to be taken out of the Mariners Centre and to a private family burial where he the soldier was given full military honours. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
TINA COMEAU PHOTO
By Tina Comeau