Operation Tribute to Freedom

OTF Soldier Story for April 12, 2010 - 1st Lt. Mickey Cupkie

First Lieutenant Mickey Cupkie

Current Unit: 434th Chemical Company
Current Position: Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear High Yield Explosive Officer
Component: Minnesota National Guard
Current Location: Elko, Minn.
Hometown: Owatonna, Minn.
Years of Service: 10

For the Cupkie and Mercado families, military service is part of what binds them together. With multiple members of each generation serving in the Army, their family tree shows a clear lineage of service. Yet for both families, their commitment to the military is just as strong as their devotion to one another. Throughout multiple deployments, the family has rallied to support one another and prove that the bond of family can withstand the test of separation.

1st Lt. Mickey Cupkie, who deployed to Kuwait and Iraq last year with the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, was grateful for the support his extended family provided him while he was away.

“It was certainly hard to be away from family,” he said. “I could keep in touch with them over the phone and email, but it is not the same as being with them. I missed the physical bond with friends and family.”

Recognizing the importance of family support during a deployment, Cupkie was motivated to help other Soldiers who were also deployed and chose to volunteer with the USO.

“I wanted to help serve the Soldiers who were away from home. The USO programs allowed the Soldiers to maintain connection with their loved ones at home, and I was honored to have the chance to be a part of that,” he said.

While in Iraq, Cupkie left behind his wife and son. However, a Soldier who deployed twice herself, his wife, 1st Lt. Mickela Mercado Cupkie, is familiar with the challenges and strains of a deployment.

“Every marriage is built on commonality. One of our commonalities is the military,” he said. “While I was away, she was able to understand a lot of what was going on overseas. It was simpler.”

However, Cupkie also notes the obstacles of being married to another Soldier.

“One of the hardest parts of being a dual military marriage is that there is always the possibility that both will be on orders. While I was deployed, she went to the Officer Basic Course, and our son wasn’t able to be with either parent. Luckily, her parents were able to help take care of him,” he said.

For the husband and wife, both of them were following in the tradition of their parents when they joined the Army.

“My father served in Vietnam and we always had one or more member in each generation who chose to serve. We’ve all served in the Army—I guess we are a green family in that way,” he said.

The Mercado family is also Army Strong, with Mickela’s father, mother and brother all serving in uniform as well. Her father is a retired first sergeant and her mother, Capt. Margie Mercado, is currently an activated Army Reservist serving as the transfer coordinator for the Warrior Transition Battalion in Europe.

Capt. Christopher Mercado, Mickela’s brother, serves on Active Duty with the 170th Infantry Brigade in Baumholder, Germany. He has deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, and has been awarded two Bronze Star Medals for meritorious service during his deployments.

Cupkie currently serves with the 434th Chemical Company, a Minnesota National Guard unit located in Red Wing, Minn., and his wife currently serves as a military intelligence and public affairs officer with an Army Reserve unit. They live with their son in Elko, Minn., and are awaiting the arrival of their second son, who is due later this month.

“My wife and I wanted to settle down, but we were committed to continuing to serve our country. The National Guard is a great way to help the local community and state as well as the country,” he said.

Telling the Army Story: Community Relations


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