~Spouse of fallen sniper unveils memorial award during competition
by Army Sgt. Richard W. Hoppe, National Guard Marksmanship Training Center
FORT CHAFFEE JOINT MANEUVER TRAINING CENTER, Ark. – Standing on the stage of an empty theater as the last few ceremony members clear out, Jane Horton gazes down at a glowing, holographic award that softly lights up her face in the dim room. As an advocate for service members and their families, Jane has made it her life goal to give back to all who serve her and her country – a goal she feels she will never fully achieve.
“One of the last things my husband asked me to do; I was an intern in congress for Senator Inhofe from Oklahoma, and [my husband] asked me to get sniper tabs authorized. And I was like ‘honey, I’m an intern,’” said Jane, Survivor Advisor to the Chief of Staff of the Army. “When he was killed, Gen. Odierno, the Chief of the Army, came to his funeral in Arlington and asked me ‘What can I do for you?’ and I said, ‘You can authorize sniper tabs.’ And so that’s kind of where it started.”
Jane’s husband, Spc. Christopher Horton died in Afghanistan while defending his country on September 9, 2011 shortly after completing sniper school. Since his death, Jane has been pushing to make her husband’s last request a reality.
‘I’ve been working with the Army and I’ve been working with Gen. Milley and Sgt. Maj. Dailey to get sniper tabs authorized, but also to make sure that we take care of our snipers,” said Jane. ‘My husband wanted nothing more than to serve his country and he chose to be a sniper because he was such a good shot, and that was the best way that he could use his God-given-skills to serve and to take out the enemy, and ultimately, its why he gave his life.”
Jane began re-counting Chris’ steps in the military shortly after he died, which eventually led her to Fort Chaffee where he attended Sniper School in 2009. She called the school and spoke with one of Chris’ former instructors.
“After Chris’ death, [Jane and I] spoke on the phone, and she wanted to come visit and retrace his steps through the military,” said Sgt. First Class Jon Plummer, Marksmanship Training Battalion NCOIC for the Marksmanship Training Center. “Since then, she’s been in contact with us three or four times a year to see if were doing okay or see if we need anything and she’ll visit probably once a year.”
Over the years, Jane and the school instructors have developed a relationship that has helped her connect with her husband due to his passion for shooting and his long-time goal of going through the sniper program.
“The sniper school has been incredibly welcoming to me and incredibly kind to me and they’ve let me come up a couple times and shoot some of the rifles, get to know some of the snipers, and just create a relationship with them,” said Jane. “It’s been one of the most meaningful relationships of my life because snipers were so important to my husband, and it was such an important part of his identity. In fact, when I buried my husband at Arlington, they gave me two lines, thirteen characters each, to describe him and I put valiant warrior, fearless sniper.”
This year however, the members of the Marksmanship Training Center are giving something back to Chris and Jane. A memorial award was commissioned by the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center at Robinson Maneuver Training Center, Ark. to honor Chris Horton, a loving husband, Army Sniper, and American patriot.
“[The award] is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s a dream come true for me,” said Jane. “My husband was 26-years old when he gave his life and it’s been almost six and a half years, which is mind boggling for me, but there’s never been enough, and there is never enough, that I could do in this life to thank him for giving his life for me, or those that have given their lives.”
Jane was invited to be a guest speaker at the Winston P. Wilson and Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting National Guard Sniper Competiton matches this year, but that was all she knew before walking up on stage to help present the award to the Wisconsin National Guard Sniper Team.
“She knows nothing about the award. We got a picture from her. I asked her what picture is her favorite of Chris. She said ‘easy’ and she sent me a picture,” said Plummer. “It had passed through several email chains and the quality wasn’t that great. So I contacted Kellogg, one of the guys in his sniper section who made it out, and I asked him if he knew where the original was. He sent it to me within about five minutes…”
After arriving on stage, the award was unveiled to Jane, the awardees, and the audience for the first time. To Jane’s surprise the competitors, cadre, and official party all rose to their feet with a round of applause.
“There’s never enough that I could do for any of you guys who have chosen to serve your country, fight and defend me. I’m truly grateful for them, and I’m here to help any service member with whatever I can and grateful today to know that my husband will always be remembered here at Fort Chaffee Sniper School, so I’m blown away.”
The memorial award will be kept at the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center at Robinson Maneuver Training Center and designated to the top precision engagement team, which is the team with the highest aggregate score in the precision engagement matches, each year during the WPW and AFSAM Sniper Championship matches in honor of Spc. Christopher Horton.
The WPW match included 13 National Guard teams from across the country. The Guard members trained through competition for three awards, including precision engagement, field craft, and overall sniper team, during the competition. The AFSAM teams, including teams from Canada, Denmark, Italy, Poland, U.S. interservice and the National Guard All Guard Sniper Team, competed for the same awards in the international category. The WPW and AFSAM matches were held April 21-26, 2018 at Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center, Arkansas.