The Grieving Widow Behind Romney's Speech

Romney has since told Horton's story multiple tiems as part of his stump speech.

ByABC News
October 9, 2012, 1:08 PM

Oct. 10, 2012 -- Jane Horton began crying on the other end of the phone when she learned that Mitt Romney had been using the story of her husband, Chris Horton, who was killed in Afghanistan, as a part of his stump speech.

"Wow," the 26-year-old said. "I had no idea.

"To be honest, I've been through a lot and I'm not a super emotional person but it brings me to tears," Horton said in an interview with ABC News, after being informed of her husband's newfound spot on the national stage. "Not that he's telling my story, but that he's telling my husband's story, it means the world to me.

"One of the last things my husband said to me before he was killed, when I would ask him, 'Chris, what do you need over there? What can I send you?' he said, 'I need a new president,'" Horton recalled.

Tune in to Thursday for live-streaming coverage of the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate moderated by ABC News' Martha Raddatz in Danville, Ky. Coverage kicks off with ABC's live preview show at noon, and full debate coverage begins at 8 p.m.Chris Horton, who was acting as a combat sniper in the Oklahoma National Guard, was killed when he and several others were ambushed in Paktya, Afghanistan, in September 2011. When he was buried, protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church turned up at his funeral, and as Romney now tells it to crowds of thousands, his wife wasn't angry.

"She was asked what do you think of that and this is the quote she said this, 'Chris died for them to be able to protest,'" Romney said at a rally last weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla. "This is quite a nation we live in. There are some extraordinary people."

Romney has since told Horton's story three more times to similarly sized crowds, along with two other personal stories of people he has known over the years, a way for him to connect with voters.

For Horton, Romney's decision to use her husband's story once came as a surprise, when a friend posted an article from the St. Petersburg event on her Facebook page. But she'd had no idea that he'd continue to do so, again and again.

Horton said nobody from the campaign reached out to her to ask if it was OK for Romney to use her story in his speech, but she is "deeply humbled" by the news.

"I thought it was just a onetime thing," Horton said.

Horton, like her late husband, is a Romney supporter. He had a small role in his 2008 campaign in their Oklahoma office and she has worked here and there for his bid this time around.

They first spoke when Romney wrote her a handwritten letter after Chris was killed. It was Oct. 1, 2011, Horton said, re-reading the letter as she spoke, remembering that she was shocked Romney had put two and two together -- that one of his many staffers had been killed and he'd figured out a way to find his wife.

A few months later, Horton still touched by Romney's outreach and thinking about her husband's support of the candidate, decided to send the candidate his name tape -- the part of a soldier's uniform that displays his last name.

Horton received another handwritten note from Romney thanking her, and communication dropped off between them until August 2012, when Horton decided to ask the campaign if she could meet him when she went to the Republican National Convention where she'd be acting as an Oklahoma delegate.

"I didn't want to meet him because he could be the next president, I wanted to meet him to thank him for all of his time, all the time he took to care about me and hand write me twice," Horton explained.

And they did meet -- the morning after Romney's speech at the RNC, just before a rally in Lakeland, Fla., when staff members organized for her to climb aboard his campaign bus.