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I can't let him go. A tale of a soldier's wife.

October 14, 2008

A true-life testimony by Crystal Kupper,

“Today might be an I-hate-the-military day,” my husband of three months said uneasily.  I snapped to attention, temporarily forgetting the vegetables I was chopping.   “Why? Switching shifts?” I asked, knowing he wasn’t.   Nick opened the fridge and stared at the milk. “No. I’m deploying.”  I practically pureed the onion, saying nothing. Then came the tears and venom, realizing it wasn’t his fault but not caring. He was leaving me.

This scene failed to cross my mind when I initially fell for Nick. He was the first military man I knew, and the romance swept me away. I had envisioned worldwide adventures with my groom. Instead, we were stuck in the ugly Idaho desert, an hour away from the closest town and hundreds of miles from home. We had no friends and were just settling into a church. And now Nick was deploying to Asia and unsure of his return date, but positive he would miss our first anniversary.

A year earlier, Nick gave me a grey Air Force sweatshirt. Bursting with pride for my military man, I wore it everywhere and treasured that garment like a gold medal. Now, I peeled it off my body and stuffed it in the closet. I didn’t want anything to do with the dumb Air Force.

Those feelings only intensified as his departure date drew near. I cried over everything, bewildering my poor husband. Even though his job as a fighter jet electrician nearly guaranteed his safety, I remained unsatisfied. Terrifying nightmares convinced me that he wasn’t coming home.

“I just don’t understand,” he said one afternoon. “I’m not going to die. What’s wrong?”

“I don’t trust the Air Force with you,” I finally spit out. He was mine, and they were taking him away.

Nick pulled me close and spoke softly. “Crystal, please understand where I’m coming from. Not only am I deploying, but I’m worrying about you, too. I can’t take care of myself because I’m taking care of you. I’m not allowed to cry because you’re doing it all for me.”

I instantly felt convicted; I hadn’t really considered how he felt. My husband had been hiding his anxieties to protect me, but now I knew my selfish actions had left him without a support system. All of my energies were going toward me instead of us.

Despite that realization, I still felt bitter when Nick left. Depression – something I had never experienced before – engulfed me. I had been a Christian my entire life, practically born and raised in a pew. But now, I couldn’t even fake a smile, especially in church. I hated the sickly-sweet people who greeted me with a smile but never called me during the week. Most of all, I despised the God who gave me this man. Didn’t He realize how much I had given up to be Nick’s wife?

Deeper and deeper into the depths of my closet went the Air Force sweatshirt.

A steaming-hot August morning found me in church again, lonely and tired. I was taking 18 college credits, trying to stay busy, but the schedule was exhausting. The choir sang out: “All of you is more than enough for all of me/For every thirst and every need.”

Inwardly blushing, I realized my problem: I didn’t think God could satisfy my needs completely. I had been substituting my husband for my Savior, and the results had been near-disastrous. If I trusted God to save my soul, shouldn’t I trust Him to plan my life and marriage? I reluctantly answered yes.

Shedding my pride, I called some other Air Force wives. Over tea, I confessed my feelings of anger and anxiety, and to my surprise, they smiled in knowing recognition. From then after, we met regularly to discuss our marriages. Once my attention switched from my needs to others’ – after all, they were hurting, too – I felt energized and valuable. I also worked toward a personal goal by training for a competitive 10K race. As a result, my phone conversations with Nick grew more upbeat as my friendships deepened and interests widened, freeing him to concentrate on staying healthy and safe.

Nick eventually returned with a sunburn and souvenirs. And though I hate the thought of more deployments, I know they will come. Even when he’s home, I struggle with giving him up to God. I have to forfeit the right to organize our lives my way.

It’s still scary. But I think I’m making progress – that sweatshirt now has its own hanger.

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Discuss this article

True Union October 14, 2008

I am glad you sought out your friends. They help remind us that we are not alone.

Kay October 14, 2008

What a beautiful sharing of your life’s moment. It certainly makes us understand even more the sacrifices made by the families waiting at home. Thank you for your service as well as your husbands to our country. Might I suggest he take the book of Psalms with him. If he, and you, read soldier David’s words, one Psalm each day, I pray you will find great strength in God’s power.

Elaine October 14, 2008

Deployment is hard on the wives of military men, and I am glad that you finally found a connection. A few years ago my son-in-law was being deployed over the holidays. They were living in Germany at the time and I felt very strongly that I should take my vacation at that time and visit her. I stayed over six weeks with her and I believe that I helped her over the hump of his deployment. Crystal you never talked about your or his family helping you out during this time, were they not aware that you needed some emotional help?

Kathryn October 14, 2008

“I realized my problem: I didn’t think God could satisfy my needs completely. I had been substituting my husband for my Savior, and the results had been near-disastrous. If I trusted God to save my soul, shouldn’t I trust Him to plan my life and marriage? I reluctantly answered yes.”

This is a key realization in the spiritual life. Thank you for sharing this crucial insight. God bless our military families.

Phylis P. October 14, 2008

I hope people pass on this email. There are many hurting wives and husbands who feel they are stuck in the dark and trying to fix it by their own power. I hate to say it, some spouses just leave thinking that it will fix everything. It makes it worse. You can never encourage a soldier or their family enough. Especially as the holidays approach.

Candi October 14, 2008

To Elaine, Yes, Crystal’s family was aware and we were supportive as possible, although for the most part it was from a distance. Difficult times like these cause us to grow stronger, as Crystal so aptly wrote. Thanks for your concern, and may God bless our military and their families.

Olivia October 14, 2008

Crystal, when my husband was deployed in the 70’s and 80’s I found great comfort in my running. I was in grad school during one of his deployments and I was able to get a lot of my outlines and thoughts put together while I was running. When our son was in Iraq from 2004-2006 I was pretty much a basket case and I prayed when I ran…I called it my “Rosary on the Run.” Those of you who are Catholic know that there are 5 Decades of Hail Marys to each Rosary. I used to say the Joyful Mysteries and I would dedicate each Decade to some aspect of our son’s life and pray for his safety. It really helped.

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