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After Loss In Afghanistan, Vivid Memories Of A Loving, 'Goofball' Father And Husband

Chris and Jenna attend a military ball in the early 2000s.
Courtesy of Jenna Henderson
Chris and Jenna attend a military ball in the early 2000s.

The StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. This week we hear from Jenna Henderson whose husband died while serving in Afghanistan.

Sgt. First Class Chris Henderson joined the Army right out of high school in 1991. He served in Bosnia and Kosovo before deploying to Afghanistan in 2007 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. On that tour, he was killed by an IED, when he was just 35 years old.

He left behind an 8-year-old daughter and his wife, Jenna.

"He had eyes the color of a swimming pool," Jenna says. "They were the lightest blue, they sparkled. I mean, it wasn't just the color. And he always made sure that I felt loved.

"I can remember the times that he took me for motorcycle rides. And it'd be winter almost in Washington. And we'd be freezing, yet we'd be riding up in the mountains. And I can remember looking through the tall trees out at the sound, feeling the cold on my face and having my arms wrapped around him, thinking there's no place I'd rather be.

"When Kayley was probably 18 months old, I remember it was storming," Jenna recalls. "And he put on her bathing suit and his bathing suit and they're out playing in mud puddles — in the pouring rain. He was such a goofball.

"And there was a lake right down from the house, and I can remember many times seeing the two of them with feet in the water just fishing and talking.

"There are things that come out in her that I see of him. Like when she's upset, her little eyebrow twitches ... and when she smiles, she's kind of got that little crooked smile he had ... and when she laughs, you can see the light in her.

"Next year when she starts high school, one of her courses is JROTC. So, I mean, she's trying to follow in his footsteps. But ... I miss him horribly. It hurts ... when it comes down to it, somebody took his life, so I'll never be at peace with that fact. But I don't think I could have married a better man.

"Matter of fact, one of the last letters I got was an apology for something that had happened a year or two before. In it, he said how much he loved me and how he was glad that he had married me, and that he wouldn't have changed that for the world. And that would be the one thing that I would want to tell his grandchildren or his great-grandchildren or his great-great-grandchildren — that he was a man that they could be very proud of."

Audio produced for Weekend Edition by Emily Martinez.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR Staff