Karen M. Wilfong

“After 23 years of marriage and 3 children my husband, Kenneth (Kenny) Michael Wilfong died March 31, 1999, after a 1-month battle with cancer. On September 27, 2017 he would have been 70 years old. As most young people when you marry you talk about the future and what you want to accomplish. We were married January 9th, 1976 and our daughter Kate was born July 23, 1977 followed shortly by her twin brothers Byron and Erich on July 12, 1978.

Kenny worked at International Harvester in East Moline and went through many changes, layoffs and unemployment until New Holland became his final work home. It was a busy time with the kids, work, sports and life in general. Kate was 20 and Byron and Erich were 19 when we got the news Kenny’s pneumonia wasn’t what we though it was. We were just on the cusp of being just the two of us when the cancer struck. 14 months later he was gone.

In the years since then, all the kids have married, that he missed. We have a granddaughter that he never got to hold and have 7 step grandchildren that he’ll never meet, or they him.

It was this past summer of 2017 that I started to think about how much I didn’t know about Kenny before it was us. That brought me to James (Jimmy) Loveless who served with Kenny in Vietnam. I asked Jimmy to help me piece some of the pieces of Kenny’s life together for me and our kids. He graciously consented and me met with us and talked and told stories. One of the saddest things was to see my 39-year-old sons get so excited when Jimmy would make a comment about something or a certain way they acted and he would say, “That’s just like your father”. They would just beam and punch the other and say, “See I’m just like dad”. 39-year-old men, still missing their father so much and grabbing on to any piece of information they could get.

Jimmy offered to check in Kenny’s service records for me. He contacted Congresswoman Cheri Bustos’ office in early November and set an appointment for us to meet with Ellie from the Congresswoman’s office and what we need to bring. We met with Ellie on November 15th, 2017 at 10:00 AM and she was so very helpful with explaining what they would try to do and get any information they could.

I received a large envelope in December that contained all of Kenny’s military and medical records from his time served and yesterday, January 22, 2018 I was able to pick up the medals he had earned while serving in Vietnam from Congresswoman Bustos’ office.

With all this information and the help of Jimmy I hope to get a clearer picture of that time of Kenny’s life for myself and our children. It’s going to take time, but it will be worth it, and I never could have started this news journey without all the help and assistance from Congresswoman Cheri Bustos’ office.”

Karen M. Wilfong, Rock Island