By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

Couples from the 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion renewed their vows of love and commitment at Fort Hood last week before soldiers from the unit departed for Iraq.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division battalion hosted two events for its couples to help strengthen their marriages in preparation for the separation.

Each couple wrote letters outlining their commitments, goals, hopes and fears for the upcoming year and read them to each other.

They then exchanged Mizpah coins, a visual, physical symbol of their commitment to one another.

Mizpah is mentioned in the Bible and represents a bond between those who are separated, said Capt. James Souza, the battalion's chaplain.

The ceremonies provided positive experiences for couples, giving them a positive note as the soldiers departed, he added.

The coin reads, "The Lord watch between me and thee, while we are absent one from another."

This will be Souza's first deployment after serving as a civilian pastor in Pennsylvania for 13 years. He and his wife participated in the Jan. 26 ceremony, and said it was an opportunity for him to be reminded of her love.

Souza will wear his half of the Mizpah coin with his dogtags, next to his heart, he said.

"That might keep me going," he said. "That might strengthen me."

As Tammy Kovach read her letter aloud to her husband, Sgt. Jonathon Kovach, she asked that he write her more letters during the deployment, "because your words replace your arms when I can't hold you."

This will be the third deployment for Jonathon and the two have been married nine years.

In the age of technology, not a lot of people put a pen on paper anymore, Tammy said. She continues to read letters Jonathon sent during his previous deployments and they still get her through the day, she said.

Tammy participated in the ceremony because it is important for spouses to show support for their soldiers and important the soldiers see that, she said.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at or (254) 501-7547. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary or

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