Gold star widow Krista Simpson Anderson connects deeply with the story of Margaret Cochran Corbin, a hero of the American Revolution. When her husband, James Corbin, was mortally wounded during a 1776 battle, she took over for him, loading the cannon and firing on the British.
“And I think about today, and our husband’s fall, and we, as widows, now have to take the place, pick up the torch,” Krista said.
And she’s done just that since losing her husband, Staff Sgt. Michael H. Simpson, a Special Forces Green Beret, who was killed in action in 2013.
Krista has devoted her life to telling the stories of the fallen, sharing her gratitude, and living and loving more deeply than she ever thought possible. Her nonprofit, The Unquiet Professional (TUP), provides opportunities for Gold Star families, veterans, and military families to heal from the wounds of war. Her work has made such an impact that in 2018, she was named Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year®.
“It’s pretty impressive – what Krista’s been able to do with The Unquiet Professional,” Army Master Sgt. Gus Anderson, whom Krista married in 2017, said. “She helps a lot of families in times of need.”
At TUP, Krista sees many service members lose their story in death. Oftentimes, all that can be found on the internet is a service member’s date of birth, date of death, how they died, and their unit. She says that when someone dies in service to the nation it is a gift that shouldn’t be squandered.
“Not having their stories readily accessible seems like a missed opportunity.”
Talking about Mike and telling his story has been so important for Krista’s children, Michael and Gabriel, who were 1 and 3 at the time of his death.
“If I don’t do this, if I don’t tell his story, then how will they tell their children about their dad? How will they say, this was your grandfather? This was your great grandfather?”
Krista knows first-hand how powerful it is to share these stories. Over the years, she’s had transformative encounters with others who knew Mike, showing her that there are no coincidences in life. There’s the story of a nurse, Kat Munoz, who cared for Mike after he was wounded in Afghanistan. While in the operating room, she met her future husband. The couple, now retired, reside in Georgia with their daughter Harper Michael, named in his honor. There’s the story of the Army chaplain who helped Mike as he lay dying at the hospital in Germany, an experience so profound that he wears Mike’s name on a bracelet to remember his sacrifice.
“From the pain, there’s so much life that emerges from it,” she said.
Shortly after Mike died, a woman stopped Krista and told her the story about her father dying when she was a small child. “This woman said, ‘That day I lost my dad and I lost my mom too. She couldn’t care for me and love me like she would have if my dad was there.’”
Krista says that this conversation gave her the push to say her kids deserve more. “How would he feel if I just curled up in a ball and decided that my life was over and never gave his children the life that they deserved to have — the life that he died for. The freedom, the joy, and all of the things that we have an opportunity to experience, how would we feel if I didn’t give them that? Then, what did he die for?”
Krista says she never wanted the title “widow” but as her relationship with Gus progressed, she worried about letting it go if she found love again. “I was afraid that I would be letting Mike go. It was like that title was directly tied to Mike and if I severed that … I think of that visual of letting a helium balloon go.
“I think there was a point that we knew we were going to be together and we thought, ‘This is terrible. You were Mike’s friend. You were his teammate. You’re going to be judged. I’m going to be judged.’ There was just so much stress and worry around that,” she said.
She flew to Texas to talk to Mike’s family about the possibility of dating Gus. “His mother, Barbara Simpson, said to me, ‘I prayed since a week after Mike died that you would find someone.’”
With the support of Mike’s family, she realized two important things — she has a right to be happy and that she wasn’t too broken to love.
Krista says that she received a sign from Mike right before she walked down the aisle with Gus. Waking up on her wedding day, 18 inches of snow had fallen, the exact same amount of snow that had fallen the night before her wedding to Mike.
During the ceremony, they lit a candle on the altar to signify that Mike would always be a part of their family. “It would always be the five of us. We would always honor him.”
Today the family resides in Northern Virginia. Gus will retire from the Army later this year and Krista continues her work with TUP. The boys, who are now 11 and 9, love Pokémon and fishing.
“Mike was very proud to share with people that he was special forces,” Gus said. “Kind of like how you want to share your Pokémon stories,” he said, turning to Michael and Gabriel with a laugh.
Krista feels that there’s beauty in both the sorrow and new beginnings of her story and where her family is today.
“Everyone looks at Mike, because of his service and sacrifice that he’s the hero. Gus is the hero …I get two of them, two heroes,” she concluded.
The Unquiet Professional (TUP)
“We are able to bring peace and joy and hopefully reduce some stress for families in need,” Krista Simpson Anderson, co-founder of the organization, said.
The organization’s name
Instead of being low-key about his Green Beret status, as is the norm in the community, Staff Sgt. Michael Simpson proudly announced his Special Forces title whenever he could. He was affectionately known as “the unquiet professional.”
Inspiration for the organization
At Mike’s funeral, Krista wondered how she got there — both literally and figuratively. “I felt like I had just been picked up and put there,” she said. It was through the help of the USO, Green Beret Foundation, the Army, the Fisher House, Special Ops Warrior Foundation, and a whole host of other entities and individuals that made the funeral seamless and helped her and her family through the most difficult time of their lives. Today, TUP is connecting these dots and bringing resources together for other families in times of need.
TUP’s mission in action
When a Gold Star family was invited to the White House but didn’t have the means to get there, TUP stepped in to help. From providing a recumbent bike for a veteran who had a stroke to helping fund a hot tub for an Air Force family with a disabled child, the organization seeks to empower veterans and their families.
TUP annual memorial mile, which will be held on May 31, does more than simply honor the fallen through a walk, run, bike, hike, or swim — it encourages participants to tell and share their stories.
Learn more about this year’s honorees: Petty Officer 1st Class (SO1) Patrick Feeks, Spc. John A. Pelham, Maj. Phillip D. Ambard.
To learn more about TUP or to register for the memorial mile, visit https://www.theunquietprofessional.org