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Snapshots of two New Mexico soldiers

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By Associated Press

Iraq

Army Spc. Joseph L. Gallegos

When he was a boy, Joseph Gallegos once found a hawk with a broken wing, nursed it back to health and let it go.

When he was working for the U.S. Forest Service in 2007, Gallegos came across a burning truck, saw a man inside and pulled him to safety. Gallegos — the lifesaver — took jobs as a firefighter, an ambulance driver and a policeman.

He served four years in the active Army. Later, he joined the New Mexico National Guard.

“He was always taking different jobs, but they always put him in the service of others,” said the guardsman’s brother Donald Gallegos. “He was always very proud of the fact that he was serving.”

While serving in Tallil, Iraq, Gallegos died Oct. 28 of a heart attack. He was a vehicle mechanic with the 720th Transportation Company out of Las Vegas, N.M. He was 39 years old.

The youngest in a family of four girls and two boys, Gallegos was raised in Questa, N.M., by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Adonario Gallegos.

Gallegos graduated from Questa High School, and roomed with his cousin Jamie Archuleta at New Mexico Highlands University in the mid-1990s.

“He was very smart, one of the most intelligent guys I ever knew. He was also a caring guy, he cared about most everyone,” Archuleta said.

Afghanistan

Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth W. Westbrook.

Like his older brother, 41-year-old Kenneth Westbrook was an athlete and soldier who was proud of his Navajo heritage.

Then on Oct. 7 — four years and six days after his older brother was killed during combat in Iraq — Kenneth Westbrook, of Shiprock died. He was being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for wounds suffered during a Sept. 8 attack in Ganjgal Valley.

An instructor who trained Afghanistan border police, Westbrook was about two months from retiring.

“The family’s sad, of course,” said David Westbrook, the late soldiers’ brother. “We’re leaning on our faith quite a bit. We’re just putting our faith in God, and that’s helping us through this.”

Army Sgt. Marshall Alan Westbrook was 43 when he died in October 2005 and the first New Mexico National Guard soldier killed during combat in Iraq.

The brothers’ father, Marshall Westbrook Sr., served in the Army, and he was based in locations that included Korea and Alaska. Kenneth Westbrook followed in his father’s footsteps, enlisting in the Army when was 18.

“He just had to go, just had to do something,” his father said.

Kenneth Westbrook was the youngest of five born to Marshall and Ruth Westbrook, of Farmington, N.M., the family said.

He is survived by his parents; wife Charlene; and sons Zachary, 20, Joshua, 18, and Joseph, 14.