Jimmy Fallon Blew This Soldier’s Wife Away With An Emotional On-Stage Surprise

Recently Jimmy Fallon held a “Veteran’s Day” episode of his popular talk show. In it, he selects a seemingly random seat number and calls a nervous member of the audience down to the stage. Her name is India, she says. She’s an active soldier and so is her husband, who wasn’t with her as he was deployed. The host, it seems, has a special surprise in store for her.

Fallon is known for surprising members of his audience with extravagant gifts. Often, if people are in need, he can arrange for them to be helped. The popular host has given away everything from home renovations and elementary school funds to iPads for the whole audience. But sometimes he arranges for very personal surprises as well.

When India arrives on stage it’s not immediately obvious that anything is going to happen beyond her playing the “Whisper Challenge” with Fallon. But he’s not about to let her and her husband’s service to their country go unrewarded. India absolutely does not anticipate what’s about to happen.

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Fallon has always had an association with army veterans. Indeed, his own father, Jimmy Fallon Snr, served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam war. The host’s father-in-law, likewise, is a also vet. William Juvonen, father of the host’s wife, Nancy Juvonen, was a pilot in the Marine Corps, who, at one point, came close to death during a training flight.

The future late-night host, however, did not go into the military himself. Straight from childhood he was interested in comedy, especially Saturday Night Live, which he was utterly obsessed with. As he got older, it became clear he had a talent for jokes and impressions. Unsurprisingly, then, he gained the label of “class clown” in high school.

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Fallon studied communications at New York’s College of Saint Rose, but ended up dropping out to kickstart his comedy career. He moved to Los Angeles in 1995 and joined the Groundlings, a local improv group. And it was while with them that he first auditioned for SNL, his biggest dream. He was turned down that time, but decided to keep trying.

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Eventually, in 1998, Fallon achieved his dream and landed a spot on Saturday Night Live. All of a sudden, he was massive. He gained a large following, especially among women, who were attracted to his boyish charm. In the end, the comedian spent six years on the show, and appeared in many famous sketches, including Weekend Update.

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After leaving Saturday Night Live, Fallon attempted a career in acting. Unfortunately, this change didn’t really work out. Indeed, his first two films, Taxi and Fever Pitch, were both flops. However, the comedian did meet Nancy Juvonen during the filming of the latter — she was a producer — and married her in 2007.

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Such was the fallout from Fallon’s movie career that when his talk show premiered in 2009, one of the taglines used for the show was “You loved him on SNL! You hated him in the movies! Now you’re ambivalent.” And though that was funny, it was also true for a while. The show got only mixed reviews when it first came out, but slowly picked up speed.

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Part of the show’s eventual success was due to Fallon’s personality, people thought. “He likes to talk to strangers way more than I would ever want to,” comedian Amy Poehler told Rolling Stone magazine in 2011. “He’s the kind of guy that would go to the airport bar and want to talk to everybody there. His ability to talk to strangers is not necessarily something I relate to, but it’s genuine… It wasn’t invented so he could be good at doing a talk show.”

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In addition to Fallon’s love of talking, he also seems to delight in arranging amazing surprises for people. In December 2016, for example, he and actor Dwayne Johnson got together on The Tonight Show to surprise a producer of the show, Karina Kabalan. It was almost Christmas, but Kabalan’s husband, Todd, was absent, serving with America’s Air Force.

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Johnson and Fallon approach Kabalan together. “[Jimmy and I] wanted to thank you and your husband for your service and your sacrifice, and I personally heard you are the most amazing person. And we wanted to bring your husband home for the holidays,” Johnson tells her. And indeed, Todd was standing right behind her.

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Obviously heartwarming moments are a big draw. But another reason for the success of Fallon’s talk shows — first Late Night and then The Tonight Show — is the use of music and games. At the time, this was something new and different. And a lot of these games proved very popular. Indeed, the Lip Sync Battle, for example, became so beloved it was given a series of its own in 2015.

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Other Fallon games include Box of Lies, where one person must guess what’s in the other one’s box; Slapjack, where the loser of a blackjack game gets slapped with a giant hand and Whisper Challenge. And it was Whisper Challenge, a game which involves a person wearing headphones trying to work out what the other person is whispering, that the host invited India to play.

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When Fallon invites India on to the stage, she’s clearly very nervous. But her story is one that speaks to a vast inner strength. Her full name and title is Air Force Special Agent India Horne, while her husband is Sergeant Cornelius “Cory” Horne. And their fourth child, Clark, was born with special needs.

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Clark was born with a condition called 6Q Micro Deletion Syndrome. This is a genetic disorder which leads to disabilities and developmental delays. On the family website, The Horne Initiative, India tells the story of her son’s birth. Indeed, when he came into the world, she was told her baby had “no arms, no hands, missing fingers.”

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India wrote on the site, “Now let’s ponder this for a minute. How can you have missing fingers with no arms? Or fingers with no hand?” But that was just the start of her confusion and long journey as the mother of a special needs child. “I don’t remember crying. In fact, I didn’t that night… Honestly I didn’t know how to process the information,” she went on.

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Clark had to have many medical procedures during the first months of his life. For a while, his home was the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. “Our lives as we knew them before him were gone. Not only did our daily routines require adjustment, but finding time to take the kids to a movie almost seemed impossible,” India wrote on The Horne Initiative.

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Luckily, the military the couple had devoted their lives to was able to lend a hand. “Thankfully our leadership thought enough of us to move mountains and part seas so we could support Clark full time. God knows I couldn’t imagine leaving him. We are forever grateful to them and the Air Force for that,” India said.

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Indeed, the little boy had to have operations just to help him breathe, including a tracheostomy. These days, though, Clark is now a toddler and doing well. On the Horne Initiative website, his parents say that the child’s life now is “the result of an incredible amount of support and resources from family, friends and the military medical community.”

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When India appeared on Fallon’s late night show she was one of many army personnel in the audience. During the show, the host announces that the evening will be one of game-playing. “Here at The Tonight Show we like to play a lot of games,” he says. “And tonight I want to play a game with you guys.”

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Fallon then tells everyone in the audience to check their seat numbers. He’ll pick one at random and that person will come on stage to play Whisper Challenge with him. “Who wants me to pick their number?” the host yells, and the audience responds with cheers. And the number chosen is 418.

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That number just happens to be India’s seat number. But of course, her being chosen isn’t as random as she might think. Fallon then calls her down to the stage. And although she was nervous about being on TV, she answers all the host’s questions. “Are you a veteran?” he asks her. “I am. Well, I’m active duty, but I’m a vet, as well,” she replies.

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Fallon then asks India, “Anyone else in your family in the military?” She replies that her husband is, but he not there with her on the show because he’s currently deployed. The host calls out, “Well, if he’s watching… If you’re watching, she’s doing great so far!” Then they get down to the business of the Whisper Challenge.

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The host then explains to India the rules of the game. “One person puts on this pair of headphones, okay, and we’re gonna play loud music. Then the other person will pick up a card and read the phrase written on [it]. And the person wearing the headphones tries to guess what they’re saying.”

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The game starts off innocuously enough. Fallon reads out the phrase “I’m a little teapot,” which India gets after he mimes a handle and spout. Then it’s the host’s turn to listen, and the army vet reads out the name “Lady Gaga,” which he seemingly finds very difficult to get. But he wins that point in the end.

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The audience then applauds the win. “Whew! No, that was good… Lady Gaga, that’s my girl,” Fallon says. Then India puts the headphones again on and the host reads out the next phrase to her. Here’s the big surprise he’s been waiting for. He holds up the card and tells the veteran, “Your husband is behind you.”

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India doesn’t get it at first, since she’s wearing the headphones and all. Fallon repeats it a couple more times, saying “Your husband is behind you,” while Cory appears from backstage and slowly sneaks towards her. The audience and the host can all see him, but the veteran can’t.

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Finally, India twigs what’s happening. Fallon turns around the card he’s holding and she can see it says, “Your husband is behind you.” She’s clearly thunderstruck, doing a double take before allowing herself to believe he’s really there. And as she stands up with an awed expression, the audience breaks into applause and cheers.

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Then, there’s a celebration on stage, with Fallon reminding the delighted India that she can take her headphones off anytime. “I was gonna get you one day,” Cory jokes with his wife. “She almost didn’t want to come down from the seats!” the host tells the husband, with a laugh.

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But reuniting husband and wife isn’t the only surprise Fallon has in store for the Hornes. “We partnered with T-Mobile to not only honor veterans, but also support them in the community,” the host says. “And India, T-Mobile heard that you were trying to raise money to redo the family room in the pediatric intensive care unit at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.”

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Now money would go straight to the center, thanks to Fallon’s show. “T-Mobile is going to take care of that. They’re going to cover all the costs of redoing the family room,” the host goes on. They’re gonna make sure it’s perfect. And Cory, there’s a few more people here that want to see you.” The couple’s kids then come out to greet them.

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It was a great moment for the Hornes. India even posted about the whole experience on her website after the fact. “So, there I was… Sitting in the audience of a live taping of The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, one day after my birthday [and] completely unaware that my family was about to be provided the opportunity to reach a tremendous milestone and fulfill our dream of helping others,” she wrote.

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India continues, “To think, I had always imagined the Lord answering my prayers with an unsuspected phone call to which I respond by running around the house (in my pajamas) with excitement. Or, a surprise email that I re-read 100 times (to anyone who would listen) because the contents left me in complete awe.”

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The veteran was full of gratitude. “Our unbelievable moment was handpicked just like the plastic ball with the number 418 on it. This gesture captured our simplistic nature, while reminding us to appreciate the beauty in laughter, family and sheer awkwardness. It solidified our faith in kindness and truly believing in the impossible,” she continued.

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At the end of 2018, India put another post on the website detailing the amazing year the family had. “2018 was met with some interesting experiences for me; the hubby (Cory) being deployed, unexpected deaths, new jobs and even a few amazing surprises,” she wrote. And the veteran joyously reported that Clark was appearing in his first ever school concert.

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In February 2019, the Air Force Sergeant Association Magazine reported the Hornes’ story. India then reposted it on her Instagram account. “In November 2018, Cornelius and India were featured on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon highlighting their initiative and future projects,” the article read.

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And the article also mentioned the planned renovations made possible thanks to the money from the show. The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center would gain a room which “will aid in providing a place where the families can reset and maintain their resiliency while making critical decisions which impact their children’s lives.”

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And little Clark is still doing well. In June 2019 India celebrated his fourth birthday on Instagram. “Words can not express how amazing this kid is… I am so honored to be your mom,” the proud veteran wrote. “You are one of the four best things that has happened to us. Enjoy your day handsome.”

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Fallon has made it clear in the past that he loves helping people. Over the years he’s donated lots of money to good causes. And while The Tonight Show is usually very funny, the host gets serious when there’s work to be done. Hopefully he’ll keep helping out veterans throughout the rest of his career as well.

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