October 15, 2009

Udall Honors Fallen NM Heroes on Senate Floor

Westbrook, Tingwall Both Killed in Line of Duty This Year

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-NM, today honored the lives of two New Mexico heroes killed this year in the line of duty with tribute remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Army Sergeant 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook, who grew up in Shiprock, NM, died last week from injuries sustained while serving his country in Afghanistan. His death came just over four years after his brother, Sergeant Marshall A. Westbrook, was killed when a bomb exploded near his Humvee in Baghdad, Iraq. He will be buried by his family tomorrow in Farmington.

New Mexico State Police Sergeant Andrew Tingwall was killed in a June helicopter accident after rescuing a stranded hiker in the Santa Fe Baldy Mountains. On Friday, Tingwall will be inducted into the New Mexico Military Institute Alumni Association Hall of Fame, an honor for which he was nominated by Udall, among others.

“Duty, honor, country – three words you hear often when talking about those who commit themselves to a lifetime of public service. Sergeants Westbrook and Tingwall personified those words, both in the way they lived their lives and in the way those lives ultimately ended,” Udall said in his remarks on the Senate floor. “New Mexico is proud to honor these true American heroes. To their families, we say thank you and ask them to accept the thanks of a grateful state, and a grateful nation.”

Westbrook, 41, was just two months from retirement when he was gravely injured September 8 as his unit was attacked by insurgents in the Ganjgal Valley in Afghanistan. He was transported to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he died from his wounds on October 7. Udall visited with Westbrook’s wife, Charlene, while the soldier was receiving treatment in the Intensive Care Unit. The Westbrooks, who were childhood sweethearts, have three children: Zachary, 20; Joshua, 18; and Joseph, 14.

“Military families are a special group of people,” Udall said. “Every day they face sacrifice and challenges the average person just can’t imagine, and they do it with grace and strength and an unwavering belief in the country they call home. That’s the kind of strength I saw the day I visited Charlene and their sons.”

Westbrook, a member of the Navajo Nation, served more than two decades in the Army, including a tour of duty in the Persian Gulf War and stints overseas in Korea and Germany.

Tingwall, 36, was aboard a helicopter transporting a stranded hiker to safety when the craft struck a mountainside and crashed. Tingwall was gravely injured, but managed to pull the hiker from the wreckage before both died from their wounds.

Tingwall, known as “Ting” to his colleagues and friends, will be honored by the Military Institute Alumni Association Hall of Fame for Eminence in his field. Tingwall graduated from the Military Institute in Roswell in 1991 and joined the U.S. Marine Corps shortly afterward. During his military career, he became a Jump Qualified Reconnaissance Marine and served with the Delta Company’s Fourth Reconnaissance Battalion. After retiring from the military, Tingwall joined the New Mexico State Police Department, was lead instructor for the Training and Recruiting Division of the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy, and was a pilot for the New Mexico State Police Aircraft Section – the youngest ever chief pilot for the unit.

Tingwall was named as Officer of the Year in 2008 by the New Mexico Sheriffs and Police Association, and would have received a Medal of Valor in June, but was killed before the honor could be awarded.