Taylor Force excelled at everything he did. As a Boy Scout, he attained the highest, most difficult rank: Eagle Scout. The descendent of generations of soldiers, Force was a National Honor Society member at New Mexico Military Institute, and then went on to West Point. He served in Afghanistan and Iraq, making it home from the war zones alive and with his positive outlook intact.
But the smart and promising 28-year-old was struck down in his prime by a Palestinian terrorist’s blade on Tuesday, one of multiple stabbing attacks in Israel that resulted in a dozen police and civilian casualties. Force, in Israel to study entrepreneurship with his Vanderbilt business school classmates, was the only victim killed.
"You hear of tragic stories that happen overseas, terrorist attacks, you know. California obviously, within the last six months in Paris,” Force’s friend Seth Thompson told LEX18. “But now, unfortunately we have been touched with it -- have been cursed with it.”
A Lubbock, Texas, native, Force came from “an extensive military background,” his former Scoutmaster, Marty Northern, told Everything Lubbock. His grandfather and father had both served.
“He wanted to follow into that tradition,” Northern said.
"He exemplified the spirit of discovery, learning and service."
- Nicholas Zeppos, Vanderbilt chancellor
At school, Force, a good-looking kid with an action-hero name, mixed a love for athletics with academic distinction. He ran track and field and cross country in high school while also earning the grades for the National Honor Society and working toward the pinnacle achievement of scouting. At West Point, he received his bachelor’s degree in engineering and industrial management in 2009 and was also a member of the ski team, according to his LinkedIn profile.
“He was such a hard worker, an Eagle Scout, and loved by everybody,” his father, Stuart Force, told Everything Lubbock.
Force served as a field artillery officer from 2009 to 2014 at Fort Hood and had deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also spent some time working at his family’s horse business in Lexington, friends told LEX18.
Eventually, Force trained his sights on an MBA and chose Vanderbilt, in part, because of the university’s “support for veterans and diversity of students,” according to a November profile in Poets & Quants.
“In addition to learning the skills needed to be successful in business, I want to establish life-long connections and friendships with my fellow students from the U.S. and around the globe,” Force said. “Also, Vanderbilt already does a terrific job being a part of and giving back to the community; I would like to help maintain and promote that altruistic culture.”
That desire to connect with students around the globe is what eventually took Force to Israel, along with 29 other students and four staff members.
Force was walking on a boardwalk in Jaffa Tuesday when a 22-year-old Palestinian terrorist stabbed him to death, part of a bloody, gruesome spree that saw Bashar Massalha stab 10 victims in three locations during a 20-minute attack. No one else from Vanderbilt was injured.
“Taylor embarked on this trip to expand his understanding of global entrepreneurship and also to share his insights and knowledge with start-ups in Israel,” Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos wrote in a statement. “He exemplified the spirit of discovery, learning and service that is a hallmark of our wonderful Owen [School of Business] community. This horrific act of violence has robbed our Vanderbilt family of a young hopeful life and all of the bright promise that he held for bettering our greater world.”
Force’s death will likely leave a void with those organizations he had so ably represented – Troop 505, West Point, Vanderbilt.
"Taylor was very loved, there was no -- there's not a better guy around than Taylor," Thompson said. "Anybody that has met Taylor would know, your life was improved getting to know him."