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Widow of US Soldier Slain in Afghanistan Speaks Out

Jane Horton, the widow of U.S. Army Specialist Christopher Horton, is an advocate for fallen soldiers and the families they leave behind, known as Gold Star families.
Jane Horton, the widow of U.S. Army Specialist Christopher Horton, is an advocate for fallen soldiers and the families they leave behind, known as Gold Star families.

Army Specialist Christopher Horton was a sniper who was killed in ambush in eastern Afghanistan on September 9, 2011. He was 26 years old.

His widow, Jane Horton, is an advocate for fallen soldiers and the families they leave behind, known as Gold Star families. She's also worked as a senior adviser to the Afghan ambassador and the U.S. secretary of defense.

The U.S. entered into a nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

An illustration of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City. (Lukman Ahmed/VOA)

Jane Horton recently discussed with VOA her own visits to Afghanistan, her husband's legacy of service and sacrifice, and what the U.S. troop drawdown means to her.

“Chris was a man of honor. When I think about Chris in times like this, I think of everything he stood for and how much he loved this country," Jane Horton said.

As she looked at photos of she and her husband, Jane Horton said, “We never thought anything would happen to him, and seeing the number plastered everywhere — 2,400 were killed, 2,400 were killed — it just blows my mind that my husband was one of 2,400 that was killed in Afghanistan.”

An illustration of Army Specialist Christopher Horton and wife, Jane Horton. (Lukman Ahmed/VOA)

Pausing on photos of Christopher Horton's funeral, Jane Horton said, “And when I got that knock, I knew that this life is no longer about me. This life is about telling people about men and women that are willing to fight, bleed and die for them, and that love them so much and love America so much that they're willing to give everything."

"You know, people are watching families of the fallen. People are afraid to approach us. As people do care about us deeply, people haven't really stopped to ask, ‘What actually happens after the knock at the door? What is the process?’" she said. "So just working to make sure it stays on the mind of our people in power, because my generation is at home being mom and dad to their kids, and so they don't have time to make sure that people are remembering or paying attention. And so I'm pretty relentless with it because it's not about me. And if I can make one day easier for these families, I'll do anything I can do.”

An illustration of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, ordered by then-President George W. Bush, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. (Lukman Ahmed/VOA)

Looking at photos of her first trip to Afghanistan, she said, “Here's my first trip to Afghanistan. I got to meet General Austin, now Secretary Austin.”

“I wanted to go to Afghanistan, and I wanted to learn about the country because my husband's blood is in their soil. And General (Joseph) Dunford brought me for the first time, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And I was so excited to go. You know, that trip really changed my life," she said.

"And so, you know, throughout the years of being involved in Afghanistan and getting to know the Afghan people, I really feel like they've given me part of my heart back. And so maybe we have to leave at a certain point, maybe we don't. I know we already did, but we can do it better than we did," Jane Horton said.

After hearing President Joe Biden explain to the country his reasonings for withdrawing U.S. troops, Jane Horton replied, "So the president said, ‘Would you send your sons or daughters?’ and I would say, ‘We have.’"

"I would give my husband 1,000 times over for this country, and he would give his life 1,000 times over. But what keeps me up at night and what haunts me is people don't know why he died. Why did he die in Afghanistan? And if we don't know that, then we really need to ask ourselves questions as a country on the why," she said.

An illustration of Jane Horton at the gravesite of her husband, Christopher Horton, in Arlington National Cemetery. (Lukman Ahmed/VOA)

"If my husband walked in here right now and sat by us, what would we tell him? You know? And so as this is happening, and the war is over now, everyone's asking Gold Star families this: ‘Was it worth it? How do you feel?’ And I'm like, ‘How dare you ask us that. How dare you ask us was it worth it when that's the American people's question to answer?’" Jane Horton said.

"My husband wasn't mine. When I sent him off to war, I sent him off as America's. He was all of ours, and so I shouldn't have to ponder that question all day long without my country pondering it with me. And so I ask the American people to ask, ‘Was it worth it?’”