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Wife of wounded Marine gives birth — to quintuplets

SHARE Wife of wounded Marine gives birth — to quintuplets
Joshua Horton

Joshua Horton

CHICAGO — As Marine Sgt. Joshua Horton lay in a hospital bed across the ocean recovering from wounds he suffered in Iraq, his wife was in a maternity ward in suburban Illinois, making him a father five times over.

Horton knew his wife was expecting quintuplets but decided it was his duty to go to Iraq last month with Marines he helped train — even if it meant leaving his wife and two children behind.

"He was taking them into combat for the first time. He wanted to get them there safely and return," said Dean Fisher, the bishop of Horton's church in Oswego, a Chicago suburb.

On Tuesday, a day after his wife, Taunacy, gave birth to three girls and two boys, Horton was back in the United States but not with his family. He was transported from a hospital in Germany to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

A Marine spokesman said Horton, 28, is expected to recover but was so heavily sedated that he probably was not yet aware he is a father again.

At Edward Hospital outside Chicago, meanwhile, the quintuplets — each weighing less than 2 pounds — were in critical but stable condition.

Friends and relatives said Horton chose to put his life and family on hold to serve his country.

"This guy is my hero," said Bill Powell, a lieutenant with the Aurora Police Department, where Horton is an officer.

Like many others, Horton felt he had to do something after terrorists struck the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Horton had been in the Marines and his wife had been in the Navy, and they thought one of them should volunteer for duty.

"They just both felt very strongly that . . . somebody needed to defend our country," said Taunacy Horton's stepmother, Anne Watts.

Even though they had two children, the couple agreed Horton would enlist in the Marine Reserves.

Then came the news that Taunacy Horton, who was taking fertility drugs in the hopes of having a third child, was pregnant with quintuplets.

When Sgt. Horton's Chicago-based unit was activated in June for training in preparation for deployment to Iraq, he had a decision to make.

"One of his greatest comments was, 'There are other mothers waiting for their sons to get home, and I need to give some other men relief,' " Fisher said. "Taunacy, as a military mother, she understood that and actually encouraged him."

On Thursday, Horton was in the Babil province south of Baghdad when he was hit with either shrapnel or bullets in his torso and right leg. The military told his family someone tossed a grenade near him when he was on a house-to-house search with a handful of Marines, Watts said.

Initially, doctors were concerned they might have to amputate Horton's right foot, but Maj. Rick Coates, the unit's information officer, said they are now confident that will not be necessary. Coates didn't know how long Horton would remain in the Naval hospital before he could be transferred to Illinois.

Coates said that Horton's decision, as strange as it might sound to someone who has not been in the military, makes sense to those who have served.

"He has, quite frankly, two families: his wife and kids and the Marines," he said. "He felt he had two obligations, one to his family and one to the other family."

When Taunacy Horton learned of her husband's injury last week, she was able to joke with Fisher about how her husband just couldn't stick to their plans.

When she went into labor a few days later, just 26 weeks into her pregnancy, she joked again with Fisher: "She said, 'boy, no one is staying with the schedule."'