WASHINGTON – When Seana Arrechaga lost her husband three months ago, she didn’t know where to turn. The one thing that finally helped ease her grief was writing the story of her husband, an Army sergeant killed in Afghanistan.

Sgt. 1st Class Ofren “AC” Arrechaga, died March 29 from wounds suffered during a firefight in Afghanistan. It was one month before he was scheduled to return home, and a day after their son Alston’s third birthday.

Ofren and son Alston Arrechaga, before Ofren's last deployment. (Seana Arrechaga)

When the soldiers pulled up to her home, Seana said, her world “stopped spinning.” Instead of anticipating her husband’s return home, she prepared for his funeral.

The 22-year-old widow was devastated. She turned for comfort to other widows at Ft. Campbell, the base in Tennessee where she still lives. She also connected with the American Widow Project, a website on which military widows share stories and seek advice. Seana began drafting hers, but found it too difficult at first.

“When you’re writing it down, it makes it more permanent and real,” Arrechaga said.

Then she heard about ‘Heroes at Home,’ a charity of retail giant Sears that each spring launches a drive to help rebuild homes of military families. This year Sears introduced a special ‘Portraits of Heroes’ contest. The person with the best story about a military hero would get their story recast as a song.

Arrechaga finally decided to share her story.

That story caught the attention of country music recording artist and Marine Corps veteran Josh Gracin, the songwriter for the Portrait contest. In her contest submission, Arrechaga wrote her story – starting from the day she and Ofren married in September 2007, to waiting at home while he fought overseas. She discussed the joy she felt when her son was born. She described the painful moment when she learned of her husband’s death. And then she described how she still feels married to Ofren and how he lives through the smile of their son.

Her words left a mark on Gracin. To Arrechaga’s surprise, her hero story was the one selected.

“Having the opportunity to take someone’s personal story and turn it into a song that so many people can relate to is truly special,” Gracin said in a statement.

Country artist Josh Gracin and Seana Arrechaga in the Nashville studio. (Sears)

Arrechaga visited Gracin in Nashville during the recording of the song, which he will sing for the first time at a special concert for troops on July 16 in Wheaton, Ill. He made a name for himself in 2003 when he wooed the judges on the second season of “American Idol.” After completing a final stint in the Marines, he received an honorable discharge and became a full-time country musician.

Arrechaga was a fan of Gracin’s when he made it big on American Idol. And she said he treated her story – and her husband’s memory — with elegance.
“Every time I hear that song in the future, it’s him. It’s about him,” she said.

Arrechaga still lives at Ft. Campbell with Alston, who she called “a spitfire, just like his daddy.” She has not decided what she will do next.

Even though the song contest is finished, Sears continues its donation drive through July 31; donations can be made at any Sears store or at Sears.com/heroesathome.