BUCKHANNON — His love for his country and his love of family will always be remembered, along with his compassion and loyalty.
David D. Taylor II, 25, the son of David Taylor of French Creek and Rebecca Taylor of Philadelphia, Pa., served his country four years in the United States Marine Corps but lost his life on July 16 in Syria while fighting ISIS as part of a Syrian militia group, the People’s Protection Unit.
Taylor joined the group, better known as the YPG, in May, according to a release from the organization.
A Newsweek article on Taylor’s death said the Kurdish YPG is fighting as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces coalition, a principal ally of the U.S.-led coalition battling ISIS in northern Syria.
According to the YPG press release, Taylor, who fought under the name Zafer Qereçox, was one of eight people killed by an improvised explosive device in Raqqa.
Taylor had enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2012.
“I remember him coming home when we lived down on Kanawha Hill in the big house,” his father recounted. “I asked him, ‘So, what did you do today?’ and he said, ‘I went to the Marine Corps recruiting office and I joined the Marine Corps.’”
David Taylor said his son told him he wanted “to be the best of the best, because he thought the Marine Corps was better than all the rest.”
Taylor said he was scared for his oldest child because of what was happening in the world even at that time in 2012, but he knew this son was doing what he wanted to do.
“I was the most proud father in the world that he could be in the Marines,” he said. “He wanted to serve.”
After completing basic training at Parris Island, S.C., and mode of service training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., David Taylor II was stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he served as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialist.
During his time in the Marine Corps, the younger Taylor also completed a 10-month tour in Afghanistan in 2014-15 and was deployed to Japan, Jordan and South Korea at various times.
“All the time he was in, he would never tell me what he did,” David Taylor said. “He never told me what he did when he was in Afghanistan.”
When his son returned from that 10-month deployment, Taylor noticed a change.
“He was totally different,” he said. “He wasn’t the same person that he was when he went in. The military changes you.”
David Taylor II decided to end his Marine Corps service when his four years were up in 2016 and was honorably discharged with the rank of corporal. He returned to Upshur County to stay with his dad for awhile and then headed to Pennsylvania for a visit with his mom. He also traveled to Florida to spend time with his two sisters, Katie and Lauren, and to see friends.
David Taylor then took his son to the airport in the spring for what he thought would be time spent traveling around Europe.
And he did explore Europe — at least at first.
“He was going to Ireland and Scotland, and he went to Germany for a while,” Taylor said. “He would always send notes that said where he was and what he was doing. I had no earthly idea that he was working his way across the border of Syria to join YPG.”
Taylor only recently found out when his son sent him an email explaining that he was in Syria and had joined YPG. He noted that the militia group was backed by the United States and that former soldiers from different branches of the U.S. military were wearing the YPG patch over there.
“When I learned all of that, I felt more comfortable, because it was backed by the U.S.,” Taylor said. “Ever since then, I have been reading about the YPG. Their number one goal was to eliminate ISIS and push them out of Syria.”
Taylor said he supported what his son was doing.
“He is so smart and he is so intellectual,” Taylor said. “He is not going to do something stupid. He was doing what he believed in his heart was the right thing to do and that was for freedom.”
A video released by the YPG shows David Taylor II before his death.
“I joined the YPG to fight ISIS and do whatever I can to help the revolution here,” he says in the video. “The education that I have gotten here has dealt with ideology, weapons and various tactics. I just want to say hello to my family. I miss you guys, and hopefully I’ll see you soon.”
Taylor described his son as “compassionate. He loved his country. He loved everybody and for every reason. He never asked for nothing in return. He was really loyal to his mother. Despite coming from a divorced family, he was the best kid you could ever have.”
David Taylor II attended the University of South Florida for awhile and then came to Upshur County, where he went to West Virginia Wesleyan College for a semester.
He worked at C.J. Maggie’s locally before joining the Marine Corps.
Mary Albaugh, past commander of the American Legion Post 7, met David Taylor II several times.
“The first time he was a little shy with me,” she said. “He was just a kid. I was excited that he was going to be a Marine, because my son-in-law was a Marine.”
“I tried to talk him out of it, because I’m Navy,” she joked. “We just laughed.”
“He is definitely his father’s son,” Albaugh said. “I always told [Taylor] that. He’s got that inner strength in him. I don’t think young David went into anything without researching and knowing. I liked him because he was funny and had a cute little grin. He always gave me a hug and patted me on the shoulder.”
Albaugh, a Navy veteran, recognized something in David Taylor II as she watched him mature into a U.S. Marine.
“He was very focused young man, “ she said. “His patriotism was uncommon in someone that young. I knew in my heart that he would go far and do great things.”
While visiting the American Legion, he would look at the plaques on the wall and ask questions about the veterans and American Legion members.
“He really liked that Eagle picture that was on the wall that had the meaning of Americanism,” she said. “He stood there and read that and said, ‘That is really cool.’”
On one of his visits with his dad, David Taylor II met a World War II veteran who served on the USS Upshur, something he said was a great honor.
Albaugh said she took a Marine Corps flag to Jawbone Park to have near his banner.
“I said that’s the least I can do for my young Marine,” she said. “That’s how much I thought of him, not because of his dad, because of who he was.”
Ron Pugh, another friend of both Taylors, said David Taylor II’s love for his country is something that will always be remembered.
“He wanted to serve his country and he felt like that was something that everyone should do,” Pugh said. “He was very patriotic. My thoughts of David II are that there is no greater patriot. He was so proud to go into the Marine Corps.”
Pugh said he even gave David II a “really good knife” to carry with him, something the younger Taylor appreciated.
When he learned of the news, Pugh went to Jawbone Park Sunday where David Taylor II’s picture hangs with nearly 500 other veterans in the Walk of Valor. Pugh was joined by about a dozen others who spent time in prayer and remembrance.
David Taylor II’s body will be returned to the United States in a few weeks.