Backstory for Charlie Keating IV
Charlie: He always wanted to be a SEAL. He grew up here in Arizona, and was a runner in cross-country, the 400 meter, and the mile in high school. He went to Indiana University to run track, and after his sophomore year in 2007 he decided to go and do what he wanted to do and be a SEAL.
He joined the Teams and was in class 266, which oddly enough was one of the few classes that didn’t graduate any officers. There were about one-hundred and fifty guys that started and I think only seventeen completed the class. Sadly, out of the graduating class, four of the guys have been killed.
Charlie was one of those guys that has gotten along well with people, no matter where he was or what he was doing. Whatever ‘it’ was, he had it. He was a phenomenal human being and a great warrior. Whatever he did, he believed in the cause and was 100% behind it.
He was on his fourth combat tour when he was killed. It was his third time in Iraq, and he did one other deployment to Afghanistan. With Afghanistan, that was an eleven-month deployment, so that almost counted as two, because they usually do six-month tours. So he was battle hardened, and had been through and experienced a lot. But to a person, every guy that he worked with respected him and loved him. When his younger brother left the University of Arizona, he wanted to do what his older brother did, and went into the SEAL Teams also, because he loved and respected Charlie, and wanted to follow in his footsteps. I think Charlie was up in Kurdistan, and a couple of times they saved the Mosul dam from being overrun. They fought hard and in reality they saved a lot of people. They did great things.
In reading about who Charlie was, he is often portrayed as a happy go-lucky, fun and loving guy. Because of that, did his decision to enlist surprise you?
Brooke: What I remember is that he was super competitive, but did everything out of the fun of it. When 9/11 happened, that was when he had decided to become a SEAL, and then when he was in college in his second year, one of the guys from Coronado kind of replanted that seed, and that’s when he came back to train. I think it was his personality that got him through everything. We like to say that when he was killed, everyone came up to us, and told us that they were his best friend. I think while having a competitive nature, he did everything out of fun, and that was the energy that he brought wherever he went. I think he tried to make everyone more relaxed, especially when guys would come home from deployment and a lot of issues would start to pop up.
Charlie: Brooke is exactly right. Some people have told us that they have been with him in firefights and he’s laughing and joking the whole time. He was just incredibly courageous, and some of his awards absolutely say that. He’s been awarded the Navy Cross and the Bronze Star, which is a pretty big deal. He was always having a good time, no matter what he was doing, he was enjoying life.
A section of Charlie’s Navy Cross Citation reads the following:
"[Keating] continually exposed himself to enemy automatic weapon, mortar, and rocket propelled grenade fire as he diligently maneuvered between the front and flanks of the defensive fighting position to stop enemy advances and keep friendly forces accurately informed of the unfolding situation,"
Were you at all surprised when you read about all of the incredibly courageous things Charlie had done overseas?
Charlie: Not at all. If you didn’t know him, you might be surprised, but if you knew him, like Brooke and I knew him, you wouldn’t be at all. He was fearless and was always pushing himself to the extreme, but was also really self-deprecating at the same time.
Brooke: He was always looking for any adventure, and I think that that’s how he sort of looked at combat- as something he was doing that was making himself proud, and protecting other people. When he would talk about combat, he would do it in such a way that made it sound awesome and would make you proud, instead of something that was really scary and not want to hear about it.
We’ll send you some pictures along- they all look pretty badass, but you have to laugh at them, because you know he was posing for many of those pictures, while laughing and having a huge dip in his mouth. But it was cool, because anytime he went on any mission or deployment, he would always represent his guys, so he would wear like the One More Wave gear and support everyone.
Charlie: Yeah, I would say that was one good thing about Charlie, was that he was always promoting his friends. He would call and say “Dad, Ian started this clothing business, and he’s going to kill it, it’s unbelievable.” I mean with Brooke and Charlie’s wedding, if you were going to give them a gift, they requested that you give a donation to One More Wave. He was always promoting Kyle, or Ian, or Resco Watches or Eli at Bottle Breacher or somebody he knew that was starting a business. That was one thing he was always doing is promoting everybody and was just so excited about their success. He was just a generous person who really enjoyed life.
For the people who did not have the privilege of knowing Charlie personally, what is one thing you would like people to know about him?
Charlie: That he was just a guy that was full of love for everybody. He cared about people, he cared about right and wrong, and he loved being a SEAL and the guys that he worked with and would do anything for them.
Brooke: That was his second family for sure. He was a huge family person, and the teams became that second family for him, it was hard to pull him away sometimes from it.
Charlie: He was a family man for sure; he loved his family. He loved all of his cousins and they were all very close.
Can you tell me how did the Foundation get started, and how you decided on the mission?
Brooke: When Charlie was killed we wanted to carry on his legacy because of how important he was to the teams and in everyone’s life. We wanted to do something that no one else had done, but also compliment the other foundations that helped us through everything. C3, his wife, Charlie’s brother, my parents and I, all sat down and thought about what Charlie loved, and what needs to be introduced that is currently lacking.
He loved family, and on a lot of his deployments there were some things where families would need some help and assistance along the way, so we came to the conclusion that we want to help the families better reorient themselves and give them whatever they are lacking to help them. We did some research and found that the divorce rate is really high in the teams, and I remember that that was always really hard for Charlie when he was trying to help his friends, especially on deployment. So we wanted to help with that process so they could be better focused for deployments and help their families back here. So that’s how the foundation initially started.
Charlie: When everything happened, we had such an outpouring of support from all over the country of people that we didn’t even know. We knew that we couldn’t just have his life end now, and we needed to go beyond and help and do what we can so that he would be proud of us as an extension. Brooke and Brooke’s Dad came to us and said “Hey, we really need to do something.” We all agreed and felt like if we got together and started this foundation, we needed to ask “Who was Charlie, and what was he about?”
As Brooke said, Charlie was always about family; that’s all he cared about. If he wanted us to do anything it would be to help his fellow teammates and their families as best we can. We came up with this thought which is, simply put, to preserve the family. Out thought was to help create a space where guys on the teams could take their wives and family and children and be with them, and help get over some of the stress they encounter on a regular basis, because those guys are working all the time- training, away from home and deployed. It’s always a lot of worries and a lot of pressure, so whatever we can do. So we’re working on those programs right now and developing them in conjunction with some great people to help with those problems.
Can you tell me about your upcoming event “A Celebration of Life: The Aloha Warrior?”
Charlie: Every year we do this event, and it’s a simple thing. Our tickets are $25 for active duty and $50 for the general public. In Coronado there’s a lot of people who love Charlie so every year, we have a little get together of everybody around the May 3rd time period and we’ll have a big party and do something that he would enjoy. I think we’ll have a paddle out in the morning and we’ll raise some money for the foundation. On July 2nd we have another event which is more focused on fundraising. The May 5th event is about celebrating the incredible life that Charlie had.
Brooke: For the paddle out we are doing that is really for his love of the ocean and surfing, so we want to do that every year. Also, this year we are doing a Hawaiian theme because his favorite drink was beer, and also a Mai Tai. And we’re doing a small silent auction, but we are not really focusing on fundraising at that event.