In the Face of Adversity - Kristen Christy

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Chase Cannon
  • 913th Airlift Group Public Affairs

“Everyone is facing their own battle.” This common phrase was used by Kristen Christy, the 2018 Air Force Key Spouse of the Year, as one of the defining points of her moving life story, which she shared with military members and their dependents at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas January 13, 2019.

Christy delivered an emotional speech, regaling the trials and tribulations she faced throughout her life, hammering home the importance of community and resilience in the face of adversity.

Christy shared the struggles of growing up as an “athlete student”, with dreams of joining the professional tennis circuit, only to have those dreams taken away after suffering a stroke at the young age of 15.

“I was nine days shy of my 16th birthday when it happened,” Christy explained. “Three weeks after I played a world class tennis player, two weeks after I won a golf championship for all [Department of Defense] high schools in Germany. My parents were told that if I lived I would not walk again. It took me a year and a half to relearn how to walk, and I now write with my left hand.”

Sadly this would not be the last major life trauma that Christy would have to face.

Following her recovery and graduation from high school, Christy attended college where she met her first husband, an ROTC cadet named Don Christy. It was not long after their meeting before they fell in love and were married.

April 21, 2008, Lt. Col. Don Christy took his life. After 17 years of marriage and supporting each other through raising two children, Kristen Christy lost her partner.

“My community showed up,” said Christy. “I don’t really remember any of the conversations, but they were there and that’s what matters.”

Following the loss of Don, Christy and her two sons, Ryan and Ben, mourned.

Eight years following his father’s death, Ben called his mother and left a tear-filled message.

“I miss dad so much. I can’t live without him – I can’t. I need him so much. I’ve been mourning eight years of my life. I’m not okay right now. I really need help.”

Kristen’s older son Ryan also struggled immensely with the death of his father, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 16.

“My family has experienced the anguish of suicide and its lasting effects,” said Christy. “The choice my husband made had rippling effects. Ryan, our older son, has now been missing since September 20, 2015.”

Christy went on to explain how she wouldn’t know where she would be today without her community, the friends and family she made through her work and volunteering.

“All that my family and I have been through has opened my eyes to the struggles that others have faced.”

Christy has been working with the state of Colorado to push for March 4 to be proclaimed National Survivor’s Day.

“No matter what obstacles we face, we put one foot in front of the other and ‘March fourth’ and conquer.”

Christy has remarried and has stepped into the role of key spouse for her husband’s unit, providing support to the Air Force community and those Airmen and their families struggling with tragedy.

“It takes nothing away from a lit candle to light another,” said Christy. “No energy, no flame, no wick. As you spread your light, its growth becomes exponential reaching further than you can imagine. All it takes is one smile.”


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