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Wife learns of soldier husband's death via Facebook

Ariell Taylor-Brown was on Skype with her husband. A few hours later, she gets a Facebook message from a soldier in her husband's platoon asking her to call.

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

There is no good way to learn that your husband is dead.

If you're a military spouse, you surely live in the expectation of a knock on your door and someone in uniform standing there, bearing the worst news.

However, Ariell Taylor-Brown didn't learn of her husband's death in Afghanistan that way.

CBS 4 in Denver reports that she was on her Facebook page when another soldier from his platoon sent her a message to call urgently. It was an emergency, she was told. She didn't know what kind of emergency.

Taylor-Brown called and discovered that Staff Sgt. Christopher Brown had been killed by a bomb.

"I was in front of my kids and I completely had a meltdown," she told CBS 4.

She had only been Skype-ing with him a few hours before. He had only been there for a week.

Naturally, the military has rules about these things. Soldiers are instructed not to inform anyone of a death before the next of kin have been told. Those in breach can face a court-martial.

Two soldiers did, indeed, turn up at Taylor-Brown's door two hours after she had found out.

The mere existence of social media allows people to contact each other faster, more efficiently and, when it comes to the likes of Skype, more personally.

The more difficult side of that comes when people react without thinking. Taylor-Brown herself acknowledges how Facebook and Skype helped her keep in touch with her husband far more easily. A few clicks can bring you so much closer.

The probability, surely, is that the soldier who contacted her on Facebook was simply reacting like a human being (however misguidedly), rather than thinking like a soldier. The impulse is to inform immediately, because the means are immediate.

The military is investigating the circumstances behind the way in which Taylor-Brown discovered that her husband was dead.

She is a widow with two children and a third on the way.