An Ohio woman last week said she was informed of her husband's untimely death in Afghanistan by one of his platoon members, who contacted her in a Facebook post and broke protocol to give her the shocking news.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Brown, a 26-year-old resident of Columbus, Ohio and father of two girls, was killed in action earlier this month just under two weeks after embarking on his fourth tour of duty. His wife, Ariell Taylor-Brown, said she is 11 weeks pregnant.
Brown was killed after he stepped on an improvised explosive device. He died just one day after his youngest daughter's birthday, according to a memorial service announcement.
But even more painful and shocking: "I was told via Facebook," his wife explained to reporters.
One of Brown's squadmates, a female soldier, reportedly posted a message to Ariell's Facebook page with word of an emergency following the attack, begging her to call as soon as possible. Speaking on the telephone, Ariell said she sat stunned as this soldier broke rank and informed her of her husband's death.
"I was in front of my kids, and... I completely had a meltdown," she admitted. "She wasn't supposed to, but I guess she took it into her own power to do it."
Had proper protocol been followed, the Department of Defense would have informed her in a more sensitive manner: in person. Families are also typically cut off from overseas communications with military personnel once a death has occurred -- a policy intended to prevent exactly this situation from occurring.
Brown was just one of 72 Americans killed in Afghanistan so far this year, and 1,936 in total since the war began in 2001. President Barack Obama has said he wants to hand over power to Afghan forces and fully withdraw U.S. troops by 2014.
This video is from NBC4i in Columbus, Ohio, broadcast April 12, 2012.