Each morning when Krista Keating-Joseph wakes up, she gets a reminder of her son.
“I check my emails first thing,” Keating-Joseph explains. She’s looking to see what people are saying about the book she published after her son Charlie was killed during his third tour in Iraq. The book, “Big-Hearted Charlie Runs the Mile,” was actually written years ago, and never published. After her son’s death in 2016 in the line of duty, it seemed like an important goal.
“When Charlie died, I was going through all his boxes of his things growing up — his pottery, the Christmas ornaments — and there was the book. I immediately looked at it and said, ‘I have to finish it.’ Charlie would have wanted me to finish it. He always loved the story. He always wanted to see me publish it. His brother Billy just said, ‘You have to do it, Mom.’ ”
Keating-Joseph began writing “Big-Hearted Charlie Runs the Mile” when her son was a freshman on the varsity track team at Arcadia High School in Phoenix.
She says it was difficult to watch her son — one of the smallest kids on the team — lose, but as a club team track coach herself, she knew lots of kids were in the same situation. With hard work and determination, Keating was able to improve and eventually became a champion in the sport that he loved. Keating-Joseph says she knew her son would one day “grow into that big heart of his.”
Charlie Keating graduated from Arcadia High School in 2004. He was a city and regional champion in the mile in high school. He went on to Indiana University, where he ran for two years, until he left to join the Navy and eventually become a Navy Seal.
Keating-Joseph says she never worried about her son’s safety: “I never really thought anything would happen to him.”
After being deployed to Afghanistan and three times to Iraq, the absolute worst did happen. After his death, she found having the book to work on was a lifesaver for her.
“I feel like Charlie gave me a gift, and his brother gave me a gift by making me finish this. That’s my gift from this whole horrible situation,” she says. “You know, my son Charlie always influenced children his whole life, and he still is now.”
Before she published the book this year, Keating-Joseph included the fact that Charlie joined the Navy and became a SEAL and that he’d received the Navy Cross, a posthumous upgrade to the medal for valor, which he was awarded before his death.
“If he were still alive, it wouldn’t change the ending of the book,” she says. “The only clue is the back of the book says I’m a Gold Star Mom. I literally wake up every morning and read the emails that are generated by the book. Every morning, I have minimum [of] three. It is just so fun to read what people write. The parents sometimes say they do not tell the kids [about Charlie’s death], but they know, and they have a hard time getting through the story. But they say their children love the book so much, the kids say they want to be like Charlie!”
Keating-Joseph says she’s also gotten pictures from some parents of their children reading the book — another gift that keeps her going.
Keating-Joseph says she’s already writing another book, and her 81-year-old mother, who illustrated the first book, is drawing pictures for the next one. She’s calling the next book, “Big-Hearted Charlie’s Secret to Success.”
“Big-Hearted Charlie” can be ordered online through Amazon, Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble.
Great article Margaret! I’m getting one!!!!!
LOVE this book. It has totally inspired my kids and many others. Using it as gifts for future birthday presents!
I read this book to my kids (aged 3,5, and 7). They find it so captivating and motivational. Love that we have a real hero for them to look up to for inspiration.