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Coping with the loss of a husband killed at war

By David Ariosto, CNN
"Jeff is one of the types of people when you meet, you ... never want to be away from him," said Suzanna Ausborn.
"Jeff is one of the types of people when you meet, you ... never want to be away from him," said Suzanna Ausborn.
  • Remains of 8 U.S. Air Force personnel arrived at Dover Air Force Base early Saturday
  • Maj. Jeff Ausborn was one of 9 Americans killed in a Kabul airport shooting Wednesday
  • Ausborn's wife, Suzanna, was at the Delaware base to welcome home his remains
  • "He was so ... and loving and patient. That's what made him such a good instructor pilot"

(CNN) -- Suzanna Ausborn first met her husband during a deployment in Kuwait, where their work and friendship in the same Air Force unit would later blossom into a budding romance.

She soon fell in love with Jeff, an only child and Alabama resident. And despite the 19-year veteran's regular deployments halfway around the world, she said they had remained inseparable.

"Jeff is one of the types of people when you meet, you want to be around him all the time," she said. "You never want to be away from him."

But when Suzanna didn't receive a call from her husband earlier this week, she began to worry.

"We talked nearly every day -- that's how I knew something was wrong, I didn't hear from him."

Maj. Jeff Ausborn was among eight American service members killed on Wednesday by an Afghan pilot who opened fire at an airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.

A U.S. contractor was also killed in a shooting that has since prompted an investigation into the suspected security breach that resulted in the deaths.

Slain U.S. troops return home

The alleged killer was found dead in a separate section of Kabul International Airport, according to a statement from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

The slain service members and contractor

Investigators say it is unclear whether the suspected perpetrator died of his wounds or committed suicide.

Meanwhile, thousands miles of away, Suzanna said at first she didn't want to believe that her husband had been killed.

"I wanted to come to Dover (Air Force Base) last night to see my husband or feel his presence one last time. I wanted to salute him one last time," she said.

"But what I really wanted is for it to be a mistake and for them to say 'No, that's not your husband there, sorry, let's undo this.' But that didn't happen."

Her husband's casket, draped in an American flag, returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware early Saturday morning. The arrival of his body also coincides with a Taliban announcement Saturday of a new offensive against allied troops and Afghan security forces.

"And so as we got closer to his casket coming off the airplane, reality set in, that really, it's him," she said. "He's never coming back."

Her husband's last stint in Afghanistan had been his longest deployment away from her.

But Suzanna said she had been heartened by his assignment in Kabul as a flight instructor, supposedly one that would draw less risk of combat.

"He wasn't in a job where he was out shooting at people. He was training them. And he enjoyed it," she said. "And we really felt that he was safe. That he would make it home. Never in a million years did it enter my mind that he wouldn't make it home."

In 2008, Jeff Ausborn was profiled in Airman magazine while serving on a U.S. naval expeditionary base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.

"I got to see how the people here really live," he told the magazine, after volunteering to hand out food and water to local residents.

"Compared to how we live in the States, the people here don't live very well," he said. "Those who live outside the city live in rock huts with thatched roofs, tin walls, no windows or doors."

While in Africa, Ausborn flew the C-130 Hercules, a four-engine prop military transport plane designed to carry heavy loads and land in rough terrain.

"The C-130s allow us to take people and cargo to remote locations in Africa," he told the magazine at the time. "We can land our C-130s almost anywhere."

Years later in Afghanistan, he had volunteered for a deployment to teach Afghan pilots how to fly.

"I would like to remember my husband as fighting for his country," said Suzanna. "He loved being a pilot. But most importantly was how he treated us. How he treated his family. He was so kind and compassionate and loving and patient. That's what made him such a good instructor pilot."

Along with Suzanna, Jeff Ausborn is survived by his five children.

CNN's Skip Nocciolo contributed to this report.