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

Family & Relationships
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller

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.

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.

RELATED: I made the journey home from Afghanistan my fallen husband never could »

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. 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?

Casperassets.rbl.ms

Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Karl Munson pilots a 26-foot boat while Petty Officer 2nd Class Gabriel Diaz keeps an eye on a boarding team who is inspecting a 79-foot shrimp boat in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of New Orleans, La., on April 27, 2005

Radio transmissions to the U.S. Coast Guard are usually calls for help from boaters, but one captain got on the radio recently just to say thanks to the men and women who are currently working without pay.

Read More Show Less
REUTERS/Carlos Barria

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday to receive the remains of four Americans killed in a suicide bombing in northern Syria.

Trump, locked in a battle with congressional Democrats that has led to a nearly month-long partial government shutdown, announced his trip via a pre-dawn tweet, saying he was going "to be with the families of 4 very special people who lost their lives in service to our Country!"

Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House prior to departure that he planned to meet the families, a duty which he said "might be the toughest thing I have to do as president."

He was greeted by military staff at Dover Air Force Base after a short flight from Joint Base Andrews, but did not speak to reporters before entering his motorcade.

Flanked by military officials, Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan filed up a ramp leading onto a military transport aircraft, where a prayer was given to honor the memory of Scott Wirtz, a civilian Department of Defense employee from St. Louis.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Trump filed down the plank and saluted while six service members clad in fatigues and white gloves carried an American flag-draped casket carrying Wirtz to a waiting gray van.

The Dover base is a traditional hub for returning the remains of American troops abroad.

The United States believes the attack that killed the Americans was the work of Islamic State militants.

Trump announced last month that he planned to speedily withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, but has since said it does not need to go quickly as he tries to ensure safety of Kurdish allies in northern Syria who are at risk of attack from neighboring Turkey.

Trump told reporters on Saturday that his Syria policy has made progress but that some work remained in destroying Islamic State targets. He defended his plans for a withdrawal.

"It's moving along very well, but when I took over it was a total mess. But you do have to ask yourself, we're killing ISIS for Russia, for Iran, for Syria, for Iraq, for a lot of other places. At some point you want to bring our people back home," he said.

In addition to Wirtz, those who died during the Wednesday attack in Manbij, Syria, were Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, and Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon Kent, 35, identified as being from upstate New York, the Department of Defense said in a statement.

The Pentagon did not identify the fourth person killed, a contractor working for a private company. U.S. media identified her as Ghadir Taher, a 27-year-old employee of defense contractor Valiant Integrated Services.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Writing by Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Leslie Adler)

A low-flying C-17 gave Nashville residents a fright on Friday when the aircraft made several unannounced passes over the city's bustling downtown.

Read More Show Less
George W. Bush/Instagram

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

Former President George W. Bush is calling for an end to the partial government shutdown, which is about to hit the one-month mark and is currently the longest shutdown in US history.

In an appeal made on Instagram, the 43rd president called on "leaders on both sides to put politics aside, come together, and end this shutdown." The caption was posted with an image of him and former First Lady Laura Bush giving pizza to their Secret Service detail.

Read More Show Less