30, of Bronx, N.Y.; assigned to the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New York Army National Guard, Syracuse, N.Y.; died Oct. 22 in Bela Ba Luk, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device.
To honor SPC Deon Taylor, Ms. Rose Staton retrieved this rock from a collection of stones that Deon and the family found in Pease Brook, a stream that runs behind our farmhouse. I can’t remember which of the three kids found it, but we carried it home because we loved its smooth, speckled Fjord like appearance. We used it for a door-stop all the years Deon was with us, and even now that he is gone, the stone sits waiting to keep a door from closing on a warm July day. We miss Dee so much. It is amazing how many objects hold meaning and memories. Thank you for this project that allows for Deon and all the Fallen to keep climbing mountains and scaling obstacles.
Deon has always been our hero. He came into our lives through the Fresh Air Program when he was just eight years old. In 1986, this brave boy left his equally courageous New York family to stay with strangers in Lexington, Maine. For each summer after, Deon joined our family for four weeks to ride bikes, build forts, and forge rock bedded streams. I thought our family could make a difference in this skinny, inner city kid’s life. We had no idea of the thousands of ways this boy would make our lives richer. Over the next eight years Deon became more than a visiting child, he became a son to me and a brother to Micheal and Michelle. He became a grandson, a cousin, a friend, and an inspiration.
At age sixteen, Deon could no longer participate in the Fresh Air Program; instead it was decided that he would move to Maine to finish high school. For the next two years, life reversed; Deon lived with us from September to June and returned to New York from June through August. Raising three teenagers was the most challenging and rewarding years of my life. I will cherish the memories I have of Deon, Micheal and Michelle learning and growing together; I will feel forever enriched to have had him as a son.
I hope that as you carry his stone, Deon finds a way to make a difference in you life as well. His smile was big; his laugh was infectious; don’t tell anyone but he loved Randy Travis’s song “Forever and Ever Amen.” He loved to boogie down earning him the nickname, “Boogie” . He could and has eaten a plate of cheeseburger; he hated insect; he lived to play basketball; he didn’t like beach sand between his toes, but would swim in the surf until his lips were blue; he wasn’t crazy about hiking, but he loved the view from the top.
Thank you for keeping Deon’s spirit alive. It means so much to know that his story will continue. As Deon’s rock becomes heavy and unbearable, I want you to think of the many weights he carried before he became an American hero’s name engraved on a Maine stone. As a boy living in the Bronx, Deon overcame many challenges: He helped take care of his mother Pam who had kidney failure, spending four hours a day five times a week on dialysis machine. The Bronx streets Deon walked, offered drugs, violence and prejudice; he refused to participate.
Shortly after graduating from Carrabec High School in North Anson, Maine, Deon returned to the city to attend college. But when his beautiful sister, Shaundel, died he needed a compass to direct his future, so he joined the Army. After finishing his military commitment, Deon completed his degree in criminal justice and joined the New York City Police Department. Then in 2011, Deon witnessed the pain and devastation of the Twin Towers’ collapse and thousands of deaths; Deon felt it a duty to defend his city and country. He signed up for his first tour in Afghanistan. He left his New York family, his Maine family, and his sweet son DaRue to protect the citizens of the United States and to train Afghani soldiers. Deon believed by training Afghani men, he made villages there safe for women and children. After a year, Deon returned to the NYC streets as an undercover, narcotic detective working to make his borough a safer place to live and work. He continued taking care of his mother and son, and met his fiancé Caitlin. But Deon felt his work in Afghanistan was incomplete, so he signed up for a second tour.
Put yourself with Dee in the hot, dry desert, far from the people you love, training people who do not speak your language or share your beliefs. You travel over roads that conceal IEDs. You know the dangers, yet you are still willing to risk it all so others will have the opportunity for freedom, justice and equality.
Just a month before Deon was to return home, he volunteered to take another soldier’s security detail. Deon’s friend needed a substitute, so he could return his cousin’s body to the United States and to attend the funeral. On October 22, 2008, Deon volunteered to be sitting in another soldier’s seat. The Hum-Vee he was traveling in drove onto an explosive device and was torn apart, killing Deon and four other soldiers. As Deon’s Maine Mom, I try to think of where I was and what I was doing the moment that Deon sacrificed it all. I hope whatever in was, it held meaning and purpose. This rock that bears Dee’s name represents his strength and purpose; a purpose you can carry forward, that you are now a part of. Thank you.
Soldiers leave behind mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, fiancés, sons and daughters. They sacrifice comfort and security to protect and defend the philosophy of a red, white and blue flag. Please make these sacrifices count; order the plate of cheeseburgers, jump in the surf and enjoy the view from the summit!