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Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Tim and Stephania Taylor together hold a photo of their son and National Guard soldier Nick, 20, who was killed Monday in Afghanistan.
Berne mourns GI, 'our son'

Anguished community unites, prays for family

Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Holly Taylor, Nick Taylor’s sister, looks at a photo taken in March of Nick and other siblings as Nick’s dad, Tim, center, and grandfather Wilbur look on.

The tributes started about 10 miles north of Berne.

Flags were at half-staff at a car dealership and construction company in Decatur.

It was in honor of Indiana National Guard Spc. Nick Taylor of Berne, who was killed in Afghanistan on Monday in what officials said was a "complex attack" on his 713th Engineer Company.

The community in southern Adams County is pulling together to support the family.

It doesn't take long to see it – just read the signs.

The first along U.S. 27 is at a cheese company: "Our Prayers for the Taylor Family."

Taylor was working to clear an area of roadside bombs inside Kandahar Province in Afghanistan when a rocket-propelled grenade struck the vehicle he was driving. The soldiers then were attacked with small-arms fire, the Indiana National Guard said in a written statement.

"Our Prayers Are With the Taylors," the sign outside Habegger's Ace Hardware said. "Thank You, Nick, for the Protection of Our Freedom."

Owner Mike Habegger knew Nick and his family.

"He was outstanding," Habegger said. "It's always somebody's son, but today it was our son collectively."

Taylor's father, Tim, is police chief in Berne. Not long after he talked of how his son died after being hit with shrapnel, a fellow police officer hugged him goodbye.

It was followed by a hug from Adams County Sheriff Shane Rekeweg.

Flags were at half-staff at South Adams High School, where Nick Taylor was a standout football player, thrower for the track team and semistate qualifier on the wrestling team.

The decision for Nick Taylor to enlist came after a recruiter visited his high school. He planned to use the money he earned to pay for college and study criminal justice.

After high school graduation, Nick had the option of getting money from his parents or taking a trip – just the three of them.

He decided to go to Mexico with his dad and mother, Stephania.

"I'm glad we did that now," Tim Taylor said, trying without success to hold back tears.

Nick Taylor wanted to be a police officer – just like his dad – and had planned to apply with the Fort Wayne Police Department when his deployment was up in September.

"He liked it," Tim Taylor said of Nick's time with the National Guard. "He wasn't sure if he was going to re-up. At one time he talked about helping recruit."

Those who talked about Nick Taylor said the 20-year-old always had a smile on his face.

"He was such a positive influence on everyone he was around," Tim Taylor said of his son.

The importance of family in Berne also is in the signs.

"Our Thoughts and Prayers Are With the Taylor Family," was posted on the Super Wash sign.

When Nick took his most recent two-week leave, he made sure it was during spring break so he could spend time with his younger brother Drew and sisters Holly and Sophia.

He also visited Jeff Lehman, his former teacher and football and track coach.

Lehman said Nick was the kind of athlete that every coach dreams of having – he'd do whatever it took to help the team.

"I just hope to see the community come together to honor Nick," Lehman said.

The family has plans to fly to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware as soon as today to accompany Nick's remains before he is escorted back to Berne.

Funeral arrangements probably won't be finalized until next week, Tim Taylor said.

"Pray for the Taylor Family," read a sign in front of a strip mall along U.S. 27.

Berne Mayor Bill McKean ordered all flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of Nick.

"I also encourage our citizens to fly the United States flag during this time in memory of Nick and as a show of support for his family," McKean said in a written statement. "To Tim, Stephania, Drew, Holly, Sophia, your extended families and Nick's friends, may God bless and comfort you at this most difficult time."

Head north on U.S. 27 on the way out of Berne and there's a message on the sign at Black Inn & Suites:

"We Remember Nick Taylor KIA July 16."