A police officer who died after being struck by lightning helping Joplin tornado rescue efforts is now a member of the Joplin Wall of Honor. On Wednesday, Jefferson “Jeff” Taylor’s family accepted a medal of honor on his behalf at a memorial service. “Caden I want to give you this in honor of your daddy who is your hero,” Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn said while handing Taylor’s five-year-old son a plaque.
“I think the oldest son is really recognizing daddy is a hero and he has done what he always told them,” Taylor’s grandmother Phyllis Taylor said. "He’d say ‘boys I'm going to go and take care of the bad guys so this will be a safer world to live in. I'll be home.’" Riverside Master Patrol Officer Jeff Taylor never came home.
“It just wasn't real at the moment,” Taylor’s father Steve Taylor said. The father never expected a lightning strike would eventually take his son's life on June 3 about two weeks after he was struck by lightning. “Then the call came,” Taylor said. Lightning struck the ground near Taylor’s command post.
“Courage is doing your duty when you are scared to death when you'd like to be anywhere else in the world except where you are at this particular moment and standing your ground anyway,” Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts said before handing Taylor's wife, Kelly Taylor, a medal of honor. Taylor’s plaque will join other Joplin police and firefighters who died in the line of duty. “They have the spirit that compels them to run toward trouble not away from it,” Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said. “They put their safety aside to protect us.”
As a childhood picture of Taylor hangs from her neck, his grandmother says she just wants to have him back. Still she says she's proud he left the world caring for others. “There is nothing we can do to bring him back but we can honor him by using him as an example,” Roberts said.
Taylor’s family says he is a new type of hero for his two young boys five-year-old Caden and three-year-old Cameron. “Most of the heroes he's known up to this point are Superman, Spiderman,” Steve Taylor said. “He is gaining a new perspective on who the true heroes are in our community.”
The Joplin Wall of Honor remembers Joplin police and firefighters who have died in the line of duty dating back to 1885.