BENNING, Ga. (APRIL 24, 2013) -- The family of Sgt. 1st Class
Kenneth Westbrook was presented with his Silver Star for gallantry,
and his second Combat Infantryman Badge, April 19, during an
emotional ceremony at Derby Auditorium here.
Oct. 7, 2009, as a result of wounds suffered Sept. 8, 2009, when
insurgents attacked his unit in the Ganjgal Valley, Afghanistan.
With the award coming nearly three and a half years after his
death, Westbrook's wife, Charlene, said she felt an immense sense of
pride in her husband.
"I would say that I'm so very proud of
him, and that he's my hero," she said. "Actually, he'd probably
grimace and say, 'No, I'm not a hero. I'm just doing my job.'"
The Silver Star is the Army's third highest award for gallantry,
behind only the Distinguished Service Cross and the Medal of Honor.
When the family received word that the Silver Star would be
posthumously awarded, it selected Fort Benning as the site of the
ceremony, a selection that was intended to reflect Westbrook's love
of and dedication to not just the Army as a whole, but also the
"I met my husband when I was 13, and he asked me what I wanted to
do for a career after we graduated high school, and I said, 'I don't
know. I'm 13 years old. I'm not thinking about my future,"' Charlene
Westbrook recalled. "But he, from the very beginning, said, 'I'm
going to be an Infantryman.' He came to basic training here, and
this place meant so much to him. He was so proud to have been an
Infantryman for 22 years."
Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, commanding general, U.S. Army Maneuver
Center of Excellence, presents Charlene Westbrook, the wife of Sgt.
1st. Class Kenneth Westbrook, and her three sons -- Zachary, Joshua
and Joseph -- with her husband's Silver Star during a ceremony at
Derby Auditorium at Fort Benning, Ga., April 19, 2013. Photo by
The family also took the opportunity to attend a basic
training graduation before holding the Silver Star ceremony.
"It is fitting that we honor the courage and sacrifice
of one of our fallen warriors shortly after we gathered to
celebrate the entry of new Soldiers into our Army -- fitting
because what those young men and Sergeant First Class
Westbrook have in common is that they volunteered to answer
our nation's call to duty in a time of war," said Maj. Gen.
H. R. McMaster, commanding general, U.S. Army Maneuver
Center of Excellence, during his remarks at the Silver Star
"It is fitting that we are part of a
living, historical community in which we do our best to
preserve the legacy of courage and selfless service of
those, like Kenneth Westbrook who have gone before us,"
McMaster said. "Fitting because we want those who knew and
loved Sergeant First Class Westbrook to know that he will
not be forgotten -- that we will continue to honor his
sacrifice and remember the example that he set for all of
The battle that led to Westbrook's death
occurred Sept. 8, 2009, when a joint force of American and
Afghan personnel that Westbrook was working with were caught
in an ambush.
According to the Silver Star award
citation, while taking fire from rocket-propelled grenades,
mortars and machine gun fire, Westbrook intentionally placed
himself in the line of direct enemy fire without cover and
concealment in an effort to engage targets and direct his
He was wounded during the battle, but
did not succumb to his injuries for 30 days.
Landay, a McClatchy Company reporter who was embedded with
the joint force, said the scene was one of the worst he had
"Within a few minutes, it was just an
unbelievable kill zone," Landay said. "All the guys who were
in there had been veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and they
had never been caught in such hellacious fire. It was coming
from three sides."
Westbrook was preceded in death by
his brother, Sgt. Marshall Westbrook of the 126th Military
Police Company of the New Mexico Army National Guard, who
died Oct. 1, 2005, while serving near Baghdad, Iraq.
While the Westbrooks are no longer actively involved in the
Army, Charlene Westbrook said the award helped them to feel
like they were still a part of the Army family.
just want the Army to know that we've been an Army family
for 22 years, and when the Army finally gave us this award
and it came to light, it almost feels like the biggest
family hug we could ever feel," she said. "It makes me feel
proud to be part of the Army family."
echoed those sentiments during his remarks.
Sergeant First Class Westbrook's family, we will never
forget your sacrifice," he said. "You are forever members of
our Army family. We are grateful for the opportunity to be
with you and to honor our brother-in-arms. For those of us
who have not experienced such a profound loss, it is
difficult to imagine what you have endured -- the loss of
not one, but two Westbrook sons who volunteered to serve
their nation and made the ultimate sacrifice."
By Nick Duke, Fort Benning Bayonet and Saber
Army News Service
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