Register NOW

A Tribute to Jason

by Liz Brown

A Navy SEAL died last week. Jason Kortz. He was killed during a training exercise when his parachute malfunctioned.

I didn't read much more of the story because I can't. Somewhere in the third paragraph, I felt my jaw tighten. The waterlines of my eyes started prickling and I knew the tears were coming.

There are so many thoughts boiling in my brain. I hope his pain was minimal. I hope his family finds peace in his courage. I hope his honor is not lost by this country.

A part of me, a part laced with guilt, feels gratitude. I want to get in my car, drive to my husband, and throw my arms around his neck. I want to feel his skin under my hands, see his face, kiss his mouth. I thank God over and over for bringing Rob home safely to me. Twelve years in the Teams and he's OK. His joints are destroyed, his hearing is mostly gone in his right ear, he sleeps like garbage, and scars cover his body, but he's alive.

One of his brothers is dead.

According to the UDT-SEAL Association, Jason Kortz is the sixth SEAL to be killed in training since 2013. Rob checked the list just the other day. He was surprised by the number, thinking it's high. Yes, they train like they fight, but just because they know training is dangerous doesn't mean they think it really will kill them — not them. They're the best of the best. They jump out of planes all the time. They go through their rigger checks, they get their JMPIs. They turn their bodies 90 degrees, count to four, and pull the ripcord.

They expect to land — safely. That's the job.

I saw GoPro footage of Rob's platoon performing an MCADS drop once. He showed me because he thought it was cool — because it is cool — and he wanted me to see "Daddy in action". As I watched my husband jump out of the C-17, my stomach started doing backflips.

When the video ended, I wasn't smiling. I said something eloquent like, "Holy _ _ _ _." Why? I got a real look at how incredibly dangerous his job is. And it didn't matter how much experience he had or how good an operator he is. Things happen. Parachutes malfunction.

The inherent danger of being a professional warrior never bothered Rob. He wanted that life and chose it every day. And I chose it too, when I married him. But no part of me ever got used to the idea of losing him. Never. I couldn't accept it. There are women out there who are stronger than I, and I envy their grace in watching their husbands carry the sword indefinitely. Part of the reason Rob got out was our decision to start a family. Knowing he could die — even during training — and leave children behind was something we couldn't abide.

I am wondering about our fallen brother today, about his wife. My heart breaks for them. I pray for his parents and everyone who will mourn him.

I'm also thinking about Rob. Tonight, when I get home, I'm going to burrow into his arms. I'm going to put my ear to his heartbeat, close my eyes, and listen. Listen and be grateful.