A Fallen Aggie, 20 Years On

Memorial Day Ceremony to Honor Gold Star Aggies Like Mark Taylor

Book open to page showing Mark Taylor's biography
Mark Taylor’s biography is displayed in the Golden Memory Book during the 2014 Memorial Day Ceremony, the year his name was added. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

UC Davis will honor its 136 Gold Star Aggies — students and alumni who gave their lives in military service to the United States — at the university’s annual Memorial Day Ceremony on May 23. The event, on the Memorial Union’s North Courtyard, will feature campus and guest speakers, a rendition of the national anthem and a reading of all 136 names featured in the Golden Memory Book.

Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor

Those names include Aggies like Mark Taylor ’86, an Army surgeon who died 20 years ago in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on his clinic near Fallujah, Iraq. His name was added to the Golden Memory Book a decade later. 

“I can’t think of a finer thing that I’d rather be doing than taking care of our soldiers,” Taylor wrote in a letter home from Iraq.

Taylor, a native of Stockton, served in the UC Davis Army ROTC and joined the California Army National Guard after graduation. He trained to be an officer in the National Guard and a pharmacist at UC San Francisco, then attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and earned a master’s in public health and a medical degree. Taylor completed a residency in surgery at UC Irvine and then returned to active duty in 2001.

Two years later, Taylor deployed to Iraq twice as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He treated injured soldiers as well as civilians, like a girl whose appendix had ruptured. The surgeon in charge of the medical team said Taylor was “probably the most experienced general surgeon I had” and a hit with those he treated.


“His patients loved him,” George Bal told Dateline UC Davis in 2014.

On March 20, 2004, Taylor was killed in an attack on the compound where the medical team lived and worked. He had been outside making a phone call, and died urging fellow soldiers to get inside the clinic, Dateline UC Davis previously reported. He was 41.

The attack also killed Sgt. Matthew J. Sandri, a combat medic from Shamokin, Pennsylvania.

Taylor had recently earned the rank of lieutenant colonel, and the promotion was granted posthumously. He was survived by a son, 6 years old at the time of his father’s death, and his parents. Taylor’s father, also a veteran of the California Army National Guard, died a year and a half after his son. 

Honors beyond the ceremony

Rows of American flags.
Flags on display at a previous Memorial Day Ceremony. (UC Davis photo)

Taylor is just one of UC Davis’ 136 Gold Star Aggies, dating back to World War I. It is in their honor that the Memorial Union was named and dedicated, and their stories are told in the Golden Memory Book on display in the MU’s East Wing and online.

All 136 of the names will be read aloud at this month’s ceremony, with duties split among a half-dozen readers. One American flag for each Gold Star Aggie will also be placed on the Quad.

Michael Bradford
Michael Bradford

The event will also feature welcoming remarks from Chancellor Gary S. May, and a keynote address from Michael Bradford, vice provost and dean for Undergraduate Education. 

Bradford is a 10-year veteran of the Navy, having served as a ballistic missile submariner and with the Navy’s military police. He joined UC Davis last year after a two-decade career with the University of Connecticut, where he held positions as the vice provost for Faculty, Staff and Student Development, the department head of Dramatic Arts and director of UConn’s Theatre Studies.

The acapella group The Spokes is scheduled to perform the national anthem, and a reception will be held in the Memorial Union’s East Wing after the ceremony.

The event is free and open to all.

Media Resources

Cody Kitaura is the editor of Dateline UC Davis and can be reached by email or at 530-752-1932.

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