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“My husband, like many fallen service members, would want to see you live”

“My husband, like many fallen service members, would want to see you live”

A Gold-Star Wife’s Message to Veterans: Honor The Fallen By Living

On Sept. 9, 2011, my husband, Spc. Christopher Horton, was killed in action in Paktia, Afghanistan.

My world shattered. As I struggled to look through the kaleidoscope lens that made up my life, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t eat, and I could barely breathe. I didn’t understand why God would take away my husband so soon, or why he chose me to live on alone and carry this great burden. I was drowning in grief, heartbroken and almost hopeless.

Throughout my long four and half years of being a war widow, nothing has been harder for me than to learn to live — when all I wanted to do was die. There have been many sleepless nights where I have laid on my face praying and crying my eyes out, and many mornings where I rolled up into a ball, asking for God to take me, or somehow spare me from this pain. I didn’t want to be here anymore, I didn’t want to face the day.

Christopher and Jane Horton Wedding Lawn

To live means so much more than just struggling to function. I may have still been breathing, but I wasn’t alive. After all, life is so much more than just breath.

There was no life left within me — only a broken, devastated heart that struggled to carry on and somehow project a kind of artificial life. I was going through the motions, painting lipstick on and plastering on a fake smile every morning just to get through the day. I was only a fraction of the person I had been before, and fought hard to make it through each day.

As much as I didn’t want to do anything, I knew that if somehow I didn’t give up — if I could produce an ounce of courage, it could only get better. If I could find the strength to carry on, in some way I would make my husband proud. I could not let myself give up.

Christopher and Jane Horton Airport cropped

Even in my darkest hours and loneliest nights, there was always a tiny ounce of hope. That morsel of hope that sometimes took me days of searching to find was rooted deep within my heart because of the awareness that my life and freedom was bought with a price. A price so high — I would never be able to repay it, I could search my whole life for something valuable enough to pay off the debt, but I would never be able to find it, because the only way to I could ever repay such a gift- was to live.

This life of freedom was bought for me with my husband’s life.

With such a gift so great, and that I am so unworthy of, how could I not live? It has taken me days upon days, weeks upon weeks, and years upon years to slowly build life within my being back again. But I have chosen to live, to give it all I have, and with all that said — to enjoy life.

To do things I never had the chance to do with my husband, to push myself to my very limits, to challenge myself to my core, to accomplish every dream I’ve ever had, and to live the fullest life possible.

I urge America’s veterans, as you honor the fallen this Memorial Day, to live.

I will never know what it is like to lose a battle buddy, or to almost die in battle. I will never pretend to understand survivor’s guilt — or what veterans go through on a daily basis, but I do know one thing. It is not what my husband would want for you.

Christopher Horton Afghanistan w Rifle

Far too many of you will attempt to spend the rest of your lives toiling your way through a normalcy that will always be anything but normal to a soldier who has experienced war. For too many of you, this world will never be normal, but rather a maze of doubt, guilt, regret, fear, and pain. My heart goes out to you.

I’m sorry you have been chosen to carry the burden of war, and I want you to know I pray for you, I cry for you, and I care for you. The fallen are in a better place. You are the one that is left to wade through the mess, to try and process the images, the death and the guilt. But you cannot carry that burden forever, so please don’t let it destroy you.

My husband did not come home — many did not come home — but you did. Many of you have left the battlefield, but not the war within your own soul, or you struggle to remove yourself from that day or that time. You can’t carry the weight of the world; you only have two hands. A human being was only meant to carry so much, and I hope that one day you can be at peace with yourself. Always remembering, always honoring the dead, and choosing to truly live.

Those who have given their lives — like my husband — are in a better place, and we will see them again. Maybe one day we will find out that they were the lucky ones, and we are the ones that had to grieve, mourn, and carry the pain through this world.

There’s a reason why you live on the earth, and your time is not yet finished. My husband, like many fallen service members, would want to see you live. Live the fullest lives possible, and enjoy every minute of it. As brothers and sisters in arms, each and every one of you would’ve given your lives for the other. You just weren’t chosen to make that sacrifice, it wasn’t your time to go, but you were chosen for life.

This Memorial Day, I urge all veterans who carry the weight of the world and the weight of war on your shoulders to push with all that is within you to live. The greatest tragedy of all is for the fallen to have given their lives on this earth for those they care about the most, and then they spend the rest of their days with no life.

After all, if we don’t live, what did they give their lives for?

Christopher Horton Afghanistan w Boy

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WAJ note: This post originally ran at Task and Purpose. Please also read Jane’s related post, I Made The Journey Home From Afghanistan My Fallen Husband Never Could:

(video also here)

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Comments

How beautiful and how meaningful.
I hope precious Veterans read this and that it can help.

Jane, that was extremely moving. My condolences on your loss. Peace be with you.

God bless you!

This should be required reading for all the young men and women who have survived the war and struggle with the aftermath. God bless you for saying it.

buckeyeminuteman | May 30, 2016 at 1:52 pm

One of my military assignments was Dover AFB, DE. Besides being the largest cargo hub on the East Coast we also supported the Mortuary. I supported that mission as a transportation planner where we returned America’s fallen heroes with dignity, honor, and respect. I’ll never know the pain and sacrifice that you and others like you have gone through, but it truly was an honor to support the family members who came to Dover from around the world to see the Dignified Transfer of their loved ones. On this Memorial Day and every day after it, I pray that we never forget the sacrifice made by these brave men and women and the loved ones they left behind to carry on.

kenoshamarge | May 30, 2016 at 2:05 pm

By living and urging others to live this brave young woman gives the best tribute of all to her husband. She shows a courage he would recognize and respect. Courage comes in all sizes and shapes – just like people.

LukeHandCool | May 30, 2016 at 3:19 pm

God bless you and your husband. What a moving tribute to him and selfless message to his comrades.

I am having my son and daughters read this and Mrs. Porto’s post as well.

I just hope generations of younger Americans (as well as baby boomers like me), can become the kinds of people worthy of the sacrifice of your husband and so many other brave Americans.

Thanks to Professor Jacobson for making these important posts possible … and for not being an all-too-commonplace American military denigrating university professor.

I would love to see a book compiled of posts like yours and Mrs. Porto’s. A few years ago I came across a book of remembrances of the experiences of the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, by the Punahou Class of 1952. In it, 84 students of that graduating class tell of their personal experiences of the day, 11 years before their 1952 graduation, that changed the world and their world. At that time they were seven- and eight-year-old primary students at K-12 Punahou. It’s fascinating.

A book compilation of posts like yours and Mrs. Porto’s should be distributed to the selfish, self-centered undergraduate protesters protesting imagined hardships these last couple of years.

God Bless you and your husband.

May the LORD bless and keep you Jane.
(Thank you Professor for allowing this post to appear today.)

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