If Gold Star wife Krista Simpson Anderson has learned anything over the past decade, it’s that she is far stronger than she ever thought possible.
After her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Michael “Mike” Simpson was killed by an IED in Afghanistan in 2013, she didn’t think she would survive 10 minutes – let alone 10 years.
But on May 1, she observed the 10th anniversary of Mike’s death.
On that Monday, Krista took her sons, Michael and Gabriel, to church and then to Arlington National Cemetery to visit their father’s grave. The boys were just toddlers when he died, but at 13 and 11 now, they resemble their father in both looks and personality.
“There is so much of Mike and Gus in the boys,” Krista said, referencing Army Master Sgt. Gus Anderson, whom Krista married in 2017. “Nature and nurture show up in them both.
After the gravesite visit, the family headed out for a Mexican dinner, Mike’s favorite.
Honor through action
Since Mike’s passing, Krista has honored his life and legacy by helping other Gold Star families and military-connected people heal from the wounds of war. In the same month she laid her husband to rest, the mom of two founded The Unquiet Professional – an organization whose moniker represents Mike’s fondness for loudly and proudly announcing his Green Beret status as much as he could. TUP’s work focuses on not allowing a service member’s life become lost in their death.
“And we get to do that from a meaningful place,” Krista said.
That meaningful place has helped more than 500 people to date, through casualty, family and youth support. Her efforts made such an impact that she was named Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year® in 2018.
“I would say that everything I do is not only in honor of Mike, but Gus and the boys as well,” Krista said. “I think all the good that has come out of The Unquiet Professional shows me that the [ultimate] plan is greater than mine.”
Krista credits Gus, whom she describes as an “incredible husband and father,” with empowering her to serve others as she continues to navigate her own grief.
“Gus didn’t replace Mike. People aren’t replaceable,” she said when presented with the notion that for widows who remarry, life just moves on and it’s easier for them. “We are who we are today because of the love and loss of Mike.”
Gold Star growth
Of course, Krista still thinks about the would-have-beens and what-ifs.
“If I didn’t, that would be strange,” she said, adding she has come to a place of gratitude for her and Mike’s time together.
That outlook began to form just a few months after Mike’s death. His company commander’s wife asked Krista, ‘If I could take away all the pain right now that you’re feeling but it meant you had to give up all the joy that Mike brought to your life, would you do it?’
Krista had to answer no.
Even now, a decade later, Mike’s absence strikes Krista harder some days. She still misses him. Every night, as she and Gus tuck the boys in, they whisper, “Daddy loves you.”
But Krista knows that Mike fought and died for their family to have the freedom to live loudly, like he did. TUP is growing, and so are the boys. And so, too, is Krista.
“Once you’ve experienced something where you thought you would never see the light again and then you do, everything else seems a little easier,” she said. “When you have someone who died for you to live, I think it’s really important to concentrate on the present and the future ― and I know that I will see Mike again someday in it.”