Living Legacies

Charlene Westbrook

charlene westbrook


My Story_

On a cool, colorful evening during a brisk and breezy fall night in 2009, I became a Gold Star Spouse. In my arms was my husband, my soulmate, my childhood sweetheart and my military man. He had just taken his last breath with me guiding him into the next world; our hearts touching each other’s until his was no longer. I was at his bedside in the SICU of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Before my Ken died, we were a military family of 22 years. There was a legacy in his family to serve, so it was up to him to keep up the tradition. I heard it since I was a thirteen year old child, and he fourteen. He kept his word. He served 22 1/2 years as an active duty senior enlisted officer. I, with three young sons in tow, followed his life’s dream.

On Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2008, we said our goodbyes to Ken when he deployed to Afghanistan from Fort Riley. In May 2009 he was given his R&R to attend the graduation of our oldest sons. That following fall on September 8, 2009 he was injured in an ambush in Afghanistan. He was flown back to the United States where he died 29 days later in D.C.

Days later I was officially given a Gold Star pin in New Mexico by my casualty assistant officer. Small, bright purple and gold, he pinned it next to my other Gold Star Pin which I always wore for Ken in honor of his brother Alan, who only four years earlier was KIA in Iraq. Now there I stood. Wearing two Gold Star pins in honor of two brothers, two Navajo Warriors, two handsome men who died willingly to protect this country. Both proud to wear the uniform, until their last breath.

charlene westbrook 2

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