News: Face of Defense: Soldier Looks for 'Buried Treasure'
By Staff Sgt. Susan Wilt
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - It's not uncommon to see 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."
Rudy's current deployment as a joint operations center force protection noncommissioned officer with Combined Joint Task Force 82, the headquarters of Regional Command East, is his third "treasure hunt."
The pirate explanation, Rudy said, helps his children mark the milestones of his 13-month deployment. "The way they can understand time is for every month I have left, that's how many ships we have left to search," he explained.
Of course, his 6-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 children in their backyard.
The great lengths Rudy takes to make sure his children are happy is something that runs in his family. His mother, Diana Humphrey, started the All American prayer group in Sanston, Va. The group bakes cookies and prays for soldiers and their families by name every day.
Rudy's concern for his children is not something that stops with his own family. He makes sure those he works around also are 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," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Vernon E. Foster, personal security officer to Army Maj. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force 82 and the 82nd Airborne Division. "He will go out of his way for that person. He has an undying loyalty."
Foster said Rudy is great for helping to 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," Foster, a 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."
Rudy draws his comedy inspiration from Steven Colbert, host of TV's "The Colbert Report."
"He's a true patriot. He loves America, and he's funny," said Rudy, who aspires to take over 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. While stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., he was an extra in the major motion picture, "We Were Soldiers."
Rudy said he 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."
(Army Staff Sgt. Susan Wilt serves in the Combined Joint Task Force 82 public affairs office.)