KABUL, Afghanistan, March 4, 2016 —
For Jane Horton, attending the U.S. Forces Afghanistan change of command here March 2 was a continuation of the mission her husband fought, bled and died for.
Her husband, Army Spc. Christopher Horton, was just 26 years old when he was killed in Afghanistan, Sept. 9, 2011.
The young sniper was killed in a firefight in Paktia province, along with two other members of the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. In the months and years since then, Horton has been a tireless advocate for the memory of the fallen and the families they leave behind.
The trip allowed the Gold Star wife to see the country where her husband died, meet Afghan leaders and witness the transition of command from Army Gen. John F. Campbell to Army Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr.
A Voice For Survivors’ Issues
Horton served as a special assistant/ombudsman to the chairman for survivor issues and was involved in changing legislation to enable spouses to use GI Bill education benefits and wrote a law creating advocate offices for families of the fallen.
“I wanted to make sure I represented my country and the fallen well,” she said in an interview with DoD News. “The fallen don’t have a voice anymore, so I lend them my voice. Everywhere I go, when people find out I’m a Gold Star wife, they are very kind to me and thank me for what I’ve given. But compared [to the fallen] I’ve really given little.”
Horton did not come to Afghanistan to get closure for the death of her husband. “I wanted to come to change the narrative about the fallen in America,” she said. “I want people to know that the families of the fallen are strong. I wanted to come over here to show people that my husband may have been killed by these terrorists, but we are still not broken. We are still strong. The American spirit is unbreakable.”
Horton was pleased to see service members continuing the mission in Afghanistan. “I really wanted to come over here to see soldiers and thank them for continuing the mission,” she said. “Face it, it could have been awkward, to say the least, to have a Gold Star wife here, but they got it. They understood where I was coming from and why I was here.”
She remembers telling a friend when the United States first went into Afghanistan after 9/11 “that our generation is going to war. I knew our lives would never be the same. I, of course, couldn’t realize how that would affect me personally.”
Horton says she wanted to visit Afghanistan even before her husband deployed. “I was really curious about the people and culture and lives here,” she said. “But after he was killed, it became more of a burning desire because this is where part of my heart is. I just wanted to come over and see what he gave his life for. Because he gave his life just as much for Afghanistan as he did for America.”
At the ceremony, Horton met Afghanistan’s chief executive officer, Abdullah Abdullah. “He thanked me for my husband’s sacrifice and was very gracious and kind,” she said. “He said the Afghan people will never forget what my husband gave for their country.”
The Afghan government had invited Horton to visit the country, but she said it was important to her to travel with the military to get a similar experience to her husband.
“Coming over with the military, just as my husband did, was something very close and special to me,” Horton said. “I wanted to see the country where he gave his last breath. My husband’s blood is in the soil here, and he gave all he had for this country and ours. I wanted ... to show we are still unbroken -- terrorism will never win, and my husband’s spirit will always live on.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)