“They killed him on a ruck march?” I heard myself say, almost as if I weren’t the one speaking.
I began pacing the room and running my hands through my hair while trying to process what I had just heard. My husband had been killed on a ruck march—a hike!—by one of the Afghan soldiers he had been assigned to train on a base near Kabul. This was his fourth combat deployment during 15 years as a soldier—and now he was dead.
It was Saturday, November 3, and I had just spent a girls’ night away with my college roommates. I was caught off guard by an early-morning phone call from my mom, who was at my house with my kids. After all, she was the one who had really encouraged me to get away for the weekend.
She told me I might want to sit down; there were two military officers on my doorstep. My stomach hit the floor, and a hot wave of shock began to run through my body. I hoped I’d misheard her when she told me they were in full-dress uniform, because that can only mean one thing.
“Brent might be dead,” I said out loud to the only other roommate already awake.
In an instant I gathered my things, and we scrambled to her van, heading to meet the two military officers who were required to deliver their message to me face to face.
It was a long and frantic ride. I sat in the passenger seat and pulled out my journal and a pen. One thought hit me with full force, and I immediately wrote it down: “If Brent is dead, I cannot fall apart. The kids matter too much.”
We arrived at the Utah National Guard headquarters and were quickly greeted by the state chaplain, and then we were escorted into the building. The atmosphere was incredibly somber. The few other soldiers we saw were standing stiffly at attention—and no one was smiling or making eye contact with me. It was an agonizing wait for the designated officers to arrive, and at one point a young soldier joined the chaplain in giving me a priesthood blessing. The words were necessarily vague and brief, as the chaplain reminded the young soldier that I had not yet been given any official news.
After what felt like hours, two Army officers in full-dress uniform arrived. I don’t remember their exact words, but they told me that Brent had been killed that morning while on a ruck march with his Afghan troops and that the rogue soldier who fired the fatal shot had also been immediately killed.
Time stood still while simultaneously rushing all around me. Memories of our first date, our wedding day, family vacations, and Sunday dinners all came flooding into my mind. And just as quickly, my thoughts turned to every shared hope, dream, and goal that now seemed shattered.