BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — It's not uncommon to see U.S. Army Sgt. Benjamin Kirk Rudy walking around with an elaborate Pirate-style coffee mug while spouting off some random pirate fact.
What many don't know about this quirky, charismatic paratrooper is that there's more to his pirate obsession than meets the eye. He uses the pirate character as a way to bond with his two children, Logan, 6, and Taylor, 4, during deployments.
"They were so young that they didn't understand I was in the Army, so I would say that I was a pirate and that I was going on a pirate trip to go get treasure," explained the 29-year-old Columbia, S.C., native. "They would get a kick out of that and tell me to hurry up and go get treasures."
Joining the Army at 18 years old, Rudy, a Combined Joint Task Force-82 Joint Operations Center force protection non-commissioned officer, is currently serving a 13 -month deployment to Afghanistan with CJTF-82, the headquarters of Regional Command-East, which is his third "treasure hunt," or deployment.
"The way they can understand time is for every month I have left that's how many ships we have left to search."
Of course, his six year old son knows his dad is a Paratrooper, but the pirate theme makes going away easier.
When "Rude dog" comes home from his treasure hunts he always makes sure he has riches for his kids.
"Last deployment I brought back a handmade treasure chest filled with coins and goodies for them," said Rudy, who also built a pirate ship playground for his kids in their backyard.
The great lengths Rudy takes to make sure his kids are happy is something that runs in his family. His mother, Diana Humphrey, started the All American prayer group in Sanston, Va. They bake cookies and pray for Soldiers and their families by name everyday.
The general concern for their children is not something that stops with family. He makes sure those he works around are also taken care of and in good spirits.
"He has a concern for people. Anyone he looks to and says, 'That's my friend,' he has a concern for. He will go out of his way for that person, he has an undying loyalty," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Vernon E. Foster, the personal security officer to U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the commanding general of CJTF-82 and the 82nd Airborne Division.
Foster said he's great for helping raise someone's spirits when they're in a foul mood or help them get over their mid-deployment slump.
"Rudy's great for when you need to laugh, he really is," the native of Pine Knot, Ky., said. "Especially here, no matter how upbeat you are, there's going to be a time over the course of 12, 13 months when you're going to get down, and that's when someone needs to laugh... When you get into that particular spot in the deployment he's really good to have around because there's something about his personality that just makes you laugh. He's going to make you feel a little better than what you were... He'll help you start that uphill climb."
To help raise people's spirits with laughter, Rudy draws his comedy inspiration from Steven Colbert, the host of the talk show "The Colbert Report."
"He's a true patriot, he loves America, and he's funny," said Rudy, who wants to take over Steven Colbert's show one day. "He inspires people like me and others to enjoy life."
If Rudy does succeed in taking over his comedic idol's show, it won't be his first time in front of a camera. He was an extra in the major motion picture We were Soldiers.
"When I was stationed at Fort Benning, I saw a commercial advertising that they were looking for extras for a movie," he explained. He decided to try out and sure enough he got selected to be an extra.
Rudy hopes to pursue acting and comedy in the future along with many other goals such as retiring from the Army, owning a business, and most importantly, passing his values on to his kids.
"I want my kids to learn my love of people, to enjoy life and each other," he said. "What my kids do know is that I love them whether pirate or Soldier."
This work, 82nd paratrooper searches for 'buried treasure' in Afghanistan, by SSG Susan Wilt, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.