News of Winchester native Taylor Gallant's death during a naval exercise off the North Carolina coast last week still hasn't completely taken hold for friends back home.
"I couldn't believe it," Ericia Martin, who graduated from George Rogers Clark High School the year before Gallant, said, "It was unreal. I kind of still don't believe it, you know. I know I have to, but it doesn't seem real."
Martin remembers Gallant from their days together in their high school marching band. The two grew apart after each graduated, but they reconnected years later when Gallant reached out to her and shared updates on his life in the navy. "He was very proud, very excited that that's the direction his life turned," Martin said.
Gallant was a decorated sailor well into his naval career, but for the 22-year-old's friends, it seems like only yesterday they were marching across the field with their whole lives ahead of them. "I remember one specific time I had a really
rough day," Martin recalled, "The band director was hard on me. I was the section leader. He came over to me," Martin continued, referring to Gallant, "and he was like, you know, Ericia, you're doing a really good job. I know that you guys are going to come through and just told me that if I ever needed any help, just to talk to him. He'd stay after practice with us. Whatever I needed he was just there. It was really awesome."
Friends of the family tell NEWSFIRST funeral arrangements are pending. Naval officials are investigating the circumstances surrounding the accident.