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In honor of the dedication and sacrifice demonstrated by military families, Citizens Bank is proud to partner with Military Warriors Support Foundation (MWSF). Every year a mortgage-free home is awarded to a combat-wounded hero and their family. This year’s recipient is Gold Star spouse, Christine Pusateri. Gold Star families, like Christine’s, have lost an immediate family member serving in active duty.
Knowing what it could cost, how many of us would choose a life protecting and serving our country? After the tragedy of September 11th 2001, 18-year-old Christopher Pusateri answered the call. Chris made the brave choice to enlist as an infantry soldier in the United States Army.
The duty that Christopher felt to his country did not overshadow the love he had for his girlfriend, Christine Youngs. “I was proud of his choice to join the Army,” Christine recalls. “I remember telling him: if this is the plan, let’s do it!” The couple married on Valentine’s Day 2003, and moved to Ft. Bragg North Carolina to start their lives together.
It’s no secret that unique challenges come with being married to a service member. For Christine, “the hardest part was the waiting. We weren’t able to communicate much. He emailed when he could, and we wrote letters.”
After his first tour was over, Sgt. Pusateri was home for less than a year before receiving orders for a second deployment to Iraq. “When we got orders again, I knew it was coming.” Christine says, “I wasn’t angry. This is our life, this is his job.”
Not all heroes wear uniforms. Having a strong support system is an integral part of a soldier’s success. The level of support Christine gave to her husband helped ensure his morale was high and his focus stayed on the mission. The emotional work and selflessness Christine displayed embodied the core values the Army stands on:
Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.
“It was a normal day,” Christine recalled. “I was eating Doritos, watching TV, waiting for Chris to come online. It was 8:03 pm when someone rang the doorbell…and I just knew.”
Sgt. Pusateri’s building had come under fire, and he was fatally wounded in the attack.
“There’s really no way to cope. The first few years after he passed were a blur.” Christine remembers.
In the midst of her grief, Christine faced a seemingly impossible task: rebuilding and returning to a normal life — a life without Christopher. “I felt stuck and overwhelmed and then the Military Warriors Support Foundation (MWSF) came in to help me move forward,” said Christine.
Citizens Bank is proud to partner with MWSF and provide Christine with a level of support that Sgt. Pusateri would be proud of. However, no agency or organization could ever fully repay the Pusateri’s for their immeasurable sacrifice.
By receiving a mortgage-free home — as well as financial literacy and debt management coaching for the next three years, Christine is now ready to start the next chapter of her life. “I’m simple, I just want to be happy, financially stable, and a good mom to my kids,” [Ryan and Isabella] says Christine. “This experience means the world to me! … I always take care of the people in my life. Chris would love that, this time —I’m being taken care of.”
At Citizens Bank, we’re proud to give wounded veterans and their families a place to call home, in partnership with Military Warriors Support Foundation. The MWSF’s program works with corporate partners, like us, who donate mortgage-free homes so that combat-wounded heroes and their families can focus on settling back into their lives as civilians.
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