When Yeoman 2nd Class Samuel Kupfer joined the Coast Guard in 2011, he was hoping to start a family with his wife, Sarah. Five years later, however, the couple received the devastating news that it would be nearly impossible for them to have children.
Rather than abandon their dream, the Kupfers pursued another option near to their hearts: foster care. Since 2016, they have fostered 12 children between the ages of two and 15.
For his extraordinary service to his nation and community, YN2 Kupfer has received honorable mention for the 2018 Coast Guardsman of the Year award.
Kupfer was raised in the small southern Oregon coastal town of Coos Bay. He met his wife early and married her at the age of 20.
Kupfer has always been interested in emergency operations. He went to school for fire science and interned at his local fire department with the hopes of pursuing a career in that field.
But plans changed when financial difficulties forced Kupfer to leave school and consider other options. In 2011, he enlisted in the Coast Guard so he could continue to focus on emergency operations. And the branch was a perfect fit.
“Currently I’m planning on seeing it out to retirement,” Kupfer told Military Times. “It’s been absolutely wonderful to both me and my family. We’ve been through some crazy stuff up and down and the Coast Guard has been here through every turn in our life.”
‘I’m just doing my job’
After enlisting, Kupfer deployed twice with the Coast Guard Cutter Active – once to Costa Rica and once to El Salvador. He was attached to a Joint Interagency Task Force that conducted counter illicit trafficking operations. He and his crew were responsible for interdicting just under two tons of cocaine valued at more than $49 million from entering the U.S.
Upon his return, Kupfer attended Yeoman school and was sent to Air Station Houston. He was promoted to second-class petty officer after just four years in the service and then transferred to his home base in North Bend, Ore.
As a Yeoman, Kupfer is currently responsible for the administrative readiness of most of the Oregon Coast Guard. He takes care of life insurance, pay and other personnel matters for more than 400 guardsmen spread across 220 miles of rugged coastline.
“I really enjoy helping people – that’s the bottom line of my job,” Kupfer said. “If I’m doing my job right, they don’t have to worry about anything else – they just have to worry about their job.”
Kupfer’s exceptional performance as Yeoman has earned him several honors and awards, including the Achievement Medal, Enlisted Petty Officer of the Year, Commandant Letter of Commendation, Sea Service Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal and Enlisted Petty Officer of the Quarter – twice.
“I’ve just been at the right place at the right time, honestly,” Kupfer laughed. “I tell everyone I’m just doing my job.”
12 foster kids later
In addition to his fellow Coasties, Kupfer has displayed an exceptional dedication to his family and local community.
When Kupfer and his wife discovered they would likely not be able to have children, they quickly turned to the possibilities of foster care and adoption as a way to help the thousands of children in need throughout their state.
Shortly after being transferred back to Oregon, the Kupfers underwent the foster certification process and received their first foster child: a three-year-old boy.
While the boy was in their care, the impossible happened: Sarah got pregnant. On March 12, 2017, the Kupfers welcomed their firstborn son, Titus.
The Kupfer family
The unexpected blessing of having a child of their own did not stop the Kupfers from helping others. Within two months of Titus’ birth, the family started fostering again. By the end of 2017, they had taken in 12 children who had endured struggles ranging from sexual abuse to malnutrition.
“Some of these kids’ stories were just horrendous, heartbreaking,” Kupfer said. “I never knew that, I never understood that’s what was going on.”
At one point last year, the Kupfers had five kids in their home – baby Titus plus four foster children.
“I don’t even understand how we did it,” Kupfer laughed.
The Kupfers are now expecting their second child, who will be born while the family is still stationed in North Bend. They have temporarily taken a break from fostering, although they eventually plan to open their home once again.
“That’s just where our heart’s at,” Kupfer said. “We desire to put our life and time into other people.”
Service as a way of life
Kupfer said his propensity for service derives in large part from his childhood. He grew up the son of a pastor who devoted his life’s work to others.
“He’s really what started me on it,” Kupfer said about his father. “I got to grow up seeing him invest time in other people, and that’s carried through my life.”
In addition to fostering children, Kupfer has supported other service activities related to his work in the Coast Guard.
In January, Kupfer volunteered to spend more than a month away from his wife and newborn child to assist in hurricane recovery efforts in Miami.
He is also part of an all-volunteer team of Coast Guardsmen who provide funeral honor details for the burials of veterans in southern Oregon.
Despite the commitment required, Kupfer said the benefits of these types of service far outweigh the costs.
“Giving back to people outside of you, I think that’s what the most important part is.”
Kupfer is currently in the process of applying for Officer Candidate School. He is taking online courses with the goal of entering the cybersecurity field.
Kupfer encourages anyone who is interested in service – military or otherwise – to take the risk, because the rewards are incredibly rich.
“Every single time we took in another set of foster kids, it was scary – scary for the kids, scary for us,” he said.
“But whether it’s foster care or not, [service] is absolutely the most rewarding thing you can do. I personally believe that investing your life into somebody else is ultimately the greatest sacrifice – you get to see them fly because of something that you give them that they didn’t have. There’s nothing more rewarding.”