MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif.—Selflessness is embodied when one is more concerned with the needs and wishes of others than with their own. An act of selflessness can be as simple as holding the door for a stranger or as heroic as facing danger to protect a fellow comrade. Jessica Rudd, a Marine veteran, wife and mother of three, exemplifies selflessness in all that she does.
Jessica, one of the Combat Center’s very own and the wife of 1st Lt. Andrew Rudd, executive officer, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, was selected as the Armed Forces Insurance Marine Spouse of the Year 2017 presented by “Military Spouse Magazine”, February 24, 2017.
The Military Spouse of the Year award was founded by “Military Spouse Magazine” in 2008 to honor military spouses of all ranks and from all branches of service. MSOY recognizes military spouses’ contributions and unwavering commitment to the military community and our country. Throughout her 11 years as a military spouse, Jessica has volunteered her free time to both military and civilian causes. But her altruistic spirit was forged years before she was inducted into the lifestyle of the Marine Corps.
Raised in the mid-western city of Columbus, Ohio, by her devoted mother and father Jessica developed a sense of duty from an early age.
“We come from a Christian family, and I’m the oldest of five,” she said. “I think that’s always kind of instilled a lot of leadership and responsibility because there have always been younger kids who look up to me in the family.”
For Jessica, being a leader has always felt natural. Whether it’s in the civilian or military world, helping others has always been a part of her life.
“Trying to help people and learn about the community is just something that I’ve always been interested in,” Jessica said.
Marine Corps roots
Following her graduation from high school, Jessica went on to college with a determination to become the first in her family to graduate; a milestone she later accomplished. Little did she know, she would soon meet the man who inspired her to greatness.
“We first met through a mutual friend back in 2005. I was with the band at the time and she was a college student. Very quickly we became good friends,” Andrew said of his then girlfriend. “She’s driven. Whatever it is, she goes all in. She has a desire to serve people, a desire to please people and a desire to work for others. It doesn’t really matter what it is, she just cares.”
The couple married in March 2006. It was while finishing her freshman year of college and preparing for a move to San Diego, Calif., with her newly-betrothed that Jessica was inspired to make a bold and unexpected move. She enlisted.
“I didn’t tell my husband I was planning on joining the Marine Corps,” she said. “I called him one day and I told him that I’d gone to see a recruiter. Initially he was shocked but then he said, ‘If you’re going to do this, you’re going to do this right.’”
“Knowing her, there wasn’t going to be any talking her out of it,” Andrew commented. “So very quickly we changed gears and I began to help her prepare for boot camp.”
Being around her husband and learning about what the Marine Corps lifestyle entailed is what ultimately inspired her to join.
“The thing I liked most about the Marine Corps was the challenge,” Jessica said. “If I do something, I go all in and I knew from the beginning that if I was going to do anything service-related with our military and country it was going to be what I and the American people think is the best.”
After one deployment, one meritorious promotion and four years of honorable service, Jessica completed her tour of active duty, ready to uncover what the world had to offer.
Continuing to serve
Having been on both sides of the coin, Jessica was accustomed to moving from installation to installation. Once she and her family arrived at the Combat Center Jessica knew that she wanted to remain involved in the illustrious institution that had come to mean so much to her. But this time, in a different capacity.
“When I first got here, I really wanted to do something that impacted the Marines and spouses directly,” Jessica said.
Right away, she contacted the family readiness officer for her husband’s unit and became involved.
“Mrs. Rudd has been involved with the unit for three years,” said Gunnery Sgt. Aron Cottman, FRO, 3/11. “She was one of the first FRO volunteers I interacted with, who let me know what goes on with the FRO program when I was taking over. She is my go-to person for just about anything.”
According to Cottman, Jessica is extremely active in her support for military families. Because of the negative stigma that is sometimes attached to being stationed aboard the Combat Center, she makes a point of welcoming new spouses and remaining involved in the unit’s community.
“Jessie goes above and beyond and she’s been on both sides of the equation,” Cottman said. “She’s been an active-duty Marine in addition to being the spouse of one. She’s really been around the entirety of the Marine Corps and as a result is able to translate that experience into a relevant experience for the spouses of the unit.”
In addition to her work with the unit, Jessica is an advocate for homeschooling resources within the local community.
“I’m on the board for a local homeschool group,” she said. “I’m very passionate about homeschooling resources, different groups and trying to streamline different resources for military children.”
The Rudds’ motivation behind homeschooling their children was simple; they can remain involved in their children’s education while remaining flexible to the demands of a military lifestyle.
“One thing we enjoy about homeschooling is we have the final say on what is being taught and how it’s being taught,” Jessica said. “We have a controlled environment for the kids and it’s a better kind of school system to work around with our not very traditional career of being in the military.”
The Corps’ best
According to “Military Spouse Magazine”, more than a million military spouses support and maintain the home front while their service members defend the nation. The program receives nominations from the military community and all Americans. There are three phases of voting, culminating in the announcement of the MSOY at an annual awards luncheon in Washington, D.C., in early May. Although Jessica hasn’t secured the win for the Department of Defense-wide MSOY award, being chosen as the 2107 Marine Spouse is an honor that she is grateful to have obtained and to those who know and love her, there is no one more deserving.
“She’s absolutely willing to do whatever it is to take care of another spouse or young Marine,” Andrew said. “I had a young Marine getting ready to move his wife and child here. Immediately, Jessica wanted to know if he had furniture, appliances and items to take care of the baby. Within a day, she got a bedroom set for this Marine, pots and pans, dishes, a couch, a TV, a box full of toys for the child. Within a day.”
“She just started pulling resources from here, there and everywhere and she goes ‘Alright, get a truck and a trailer and let’s get this over to this Marine’s house.’ She has a drive and a determination that just blows me out of the water.”
During the announcement of the MSOY, Congressional members, senior military, DoD leadership and military spouses from all over the world will gather to see who is chosen for the prestigious honor.
“The spouse can be the unsung hero of a Marine’s success and at times a catalyst for their accomplishments,” Cottman said. “When you have a positive environment at home, that can go a long way to increasing a Marine’s efficiency, their overall experience as a Marine and their ability to accomplish the mission.”
Story by Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo