Editor's note: Stories of Honor is an exclusive series spotlighting 10 military heroes from our region who were nominated by our readers to honor their bravery, service and dedication.
Hudson Falls resident and Army veteran Kyle Taylor felt early on that he wanted to honor the legacy of his great uncle, Owen Goodsell.
“My uncle was in Vietnam. He’s on the Vietnam Memorial in D.C. I knew I wanted to honor his service. Owen is my middle name, after him, and I’ve always felt connected to him. … I wanted to be more than your average Joe, so I enlisted in the Army,” he said.
Taylor enlisted on March 24, 2011, the day after his 20th birthday. He went to basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and then Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, for three months in Virginia. Taylor completed AIT to become a wheeled-vehicle mechanic, earning the rank of specialist, or SP4, the same rank as his great uncle.
Winchell said his duties included performing maintenance and recovery operations on wheeled vehicles, as well as heavy-wheeled vehicles and select armored vehicles.
“I’ve always has a knack for machines. When I was 4 or 5, I started working on bikes. I went up to fixing lawnmowers, and started working on cars when I was about 15. There was no doubt that I wanted to focus on mechanics when I enlisted,” Taylor said.
Taylor then went to Camp Shelby, Mississippi. It was there he learned he would deploy to Kuwait in March 2012.
“I was paired with a unit from South Carolina and our mission was to drive around finding and disposing of missiles and weapons left at certain sites. We basically drove around picking up the mess left over,” Taylor said.
Part of the mission involved an EOD, or Explosive Ordinance Disposal Specialist, detonating any weapons that were recovered to make sure they didn’t fall into the wrong hands or cause injury.
“That part was awesome,” Taylor said, laughing. “The explosions were massive.”
He said in addition fixing and maintaining vehicles on base in Kuwait, he often led recovery teams to find a fix broken vehicles off base, at times crossing the border into Iraq. It was on one such mission in October that Taylor and his team hit an IED roadside bomb.
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“Our mission was to grab two LMTVs (Light Medium Tactical Vehicles), which are like troop or cargo carriers. They broke down and we were going to fix them and bring them back. I was in the last vehicle of an eight-vehicle convoy. We were hit by a roadside bomb,” he said.
“When I came to, the roof of the vehicle was about 3 feet away and bullets were flying overhead. It took me a few seconds to realize what was happening. My brothers in arms covered me until I came to and we did what we needed to. We subdued the enemy,” Taylor said.
Taylor and his team were evacuated by helicopter and he sustained injuries to his back and left leg, as well as a traumatic brain injury.
“I was eventually medevaced to Germany, but they had to wait a few weeks because of the threat of missile attacks. I was in a wheelchair and couldn’t move my leg at all,” he said.
Taylor spent several weeks in Germany in recovery. Finally, in November 2012 he was returned to Fort Drum near Watertown. He had several surgeries at the Syracuse VA Medical Center in January 2013.
“I had collapsed veins and blood clots in my leg. I spent eight months in a wheelchair. The recovery was really tough. I couldn’t rely on walking and spent hours a day doing pool therapy, then regular physical therapy,” he said.
In April 2013, Taylor left Fort Drum and continued drilling with his unit in Glenville as a reservist until his discharge from the Army.
“I would have liked to make a career of the Army but I had a hard time with the physical training tests after my injury. I didn’t want to be a liability to others so I decided to retire. It was a tough,” he said.
Taylor is currently employed as a mechanic at the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center.
“I knew I wanted to be with veterans if I could. This job was the first place that felt like home. It’s hard to explain, but being with people who understand you, who you don’t have to explain everything to makes a big difference.”
“Working on machines and being with veterans is pretty much all I ever wanted to do. It’s a brotherhood,” he said.