On Tuesday, Nov. 11, members of the William Jewell College community celebrated Veterans Day. The Hilltop Monitor sat down with two veterans who currently study on the Hill, Daiven Ruddock, junior, and Stephen Preisig, junior.
Ruddock served in the United States Marine Corps 1st Light Armored Recon from 2008 through 2012. He was deployed to Afghanistan and Pakistan for combat, and India, where he trained the 2/4 Gurkha in desert warfare. By the end of his enlistment, Ruddock had been promoted to platoon sergeant, where he was charged with the training and care of 52 of his fellow Marines at 19 years of age. He was meritoriously promoted to private first class out of boot camp, lance corporal for holding the roles of squad leader and scribe in the School of Infantry and corporal for holding the roles of squad leader and gunner in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ruddock was awarded two Certificates of Commendation, a Letter of Accommodation for Multicultural Day, a Good Conduct medal for four years of disciplined conduct and the Gung Ho award for graduating second in his class.
Ruddock began his military career the summer before his senior year of high school, but had an affinity for service even from childhood.
“Of course, 9/11 had a big impact on my life when it happened. I was at an age where I could actually understand what was going on, so that had a lot to do with my decision when I enlisted. Also, my relationship with my uncle was important to me, and he had prior service in the Marine Corps as a 0331/ Machine Gunner. With that in mind I wanted to do the hardest thing that I could do mentally and physically, so of course I joined as an 0311/ Riflemen and eventually went 0313/Light Armored Recon. When I joined I wanted to be able to say I’ve done something no one else has done or has wanted to do. That is exactly why I voluntarily joined the Marine Corp at 17 as a GRUNT during a time of war because I knew I’d be deployed,” Ruddock said.
Ruddock came from a family rich in military history, as his father, Jim Ruddock, and his grandfather, Darrel Vance, both served in the United States Army; his uncle, Cody Chandler, served in the United States Marine Corps. Ruddock attributes his family with inspiring a sense of duty in both his years of military service and his life, though he admits it is a complicated concept.
“The word duty is a tough word to hit the hammer on the head because it says that you are ‘required’ to do a task. In my personal opinion, duty means that I get a chance to complete a task for something bigger than myself. In this world today too many people take what they have for granted. My personal experience of being in different countries including Afghanistan and Pakistan, and when my job in the Marine Corp required it some terrible and sticky situations, has made me realize many things. Not only was I awarded the opportunity to serve and protect my country, but, in a bigger picture, I was able to be part of a system where we were extremely big role models— not only for kids and citizens of USA, but the kids and adults overseas too. Duty to me was an opportunity to perform and complete a task that has an insurmountable affect for the well-being of many, not a mere task,” Ruddock said.
Ruddock calls on members of the William Jewell community to support veterans and active duty service members who also fulfill this duty to the United States.
“I would like the Jewell community to understand that the men and women of our armed forces sign a contract to serve this country for the people’s well-being because we live in a free country. Service men and women voluntarily sign that contract, which might mean giving the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life,” Ruddock said, “and the veterans of the past had to go through something that no one can even imagine. Veterans of the wars before our time were not volunteers and most were forced to serve and sacrifice for their country.”
Ruddock says that he values the recognition Veterans Day affords servicemen and servicewomen.
“Veterans Day to me is a chance for the men and women of the armed services to be recognized for what they did [in the] past, present, and in the future. For the Jewell community, a simple ‘thank you’ and a hand shake will go a long way in a veteran’s heart and life. As for military service the Jewell community needs to understand that the men and women of the armed forces not only sacrifice time with their family, but also a change at a future life. Military service has a huge impact on a family’s life because of the time that is spent away from home. I want the Jewell community to try and imagine what it’d be like for the most important day of your life to be upon them (graduation, birthday, marriage, funeral etc.) and that special someone dearest to them is not there. Military service is not only a sacrifice of a life for something bigger than a single person, but also a lot of time that loved ones cannot get back.”
Ruddock encourages the Jewell community to “reach out, recognize, and understand what each veteran has gone through. Find a way to get involved, like donating to or volunteering for the Wounded Warriors Project.
Stephen Preisig, junior, served four years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps Aug. 2008 though Aug. 2012. He now maintains an IRR, or Inactive Readiness Reserve, position. During his tour, Preisig served as part of the 1stBattalion 10th Marines (1/10) as a corporal, and was promoted to sergeant after his transition to the reserves.
Preisig began his years of service directly after he graduated from Lee’s Summit North High School in 2008.
“After I graduated, I knew I eventually wanted to go to college, but first, I wanted to live abroad and go on an adventure. I was going to enlist in the army, but my dad said that if I was going to commit, it should be to something prestigious. So I knew it had to be the Marine Corps. I went and enlisted the next day,” Preisig said.
His initial interest in the military revolved around his family’s history.
“I knew that to grow personally I had to follow in my grandfathers’ footsteps. They were both in the military. One of my grandfathers was in both the Swiss Army [the Swiss Armed Forced] and the U.S. Army, and my uncle was in the Vietnam War. It’s been a neat legacy, you know, my grandparents and I can talk about and relate to the same purpose,” Preisig said.
He aims to facilitate that same understanding between members of the military like himself and the William Jewell community. Preisig found an outlet to do so in his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Order.
“Being in KA has been a great transition [from military to civilian life] because it shares the same traditional values and military undertones, like duty, of the Marine Corps. When I came here [to William Jewell College], the group of guys who were most similar to the closest friends I had in the service were the gentlemen of Kappa Alpha Order,” Preisig said. “Duty is when someone is willing to make a commitment of something they truly believe in. I am wildly patriotic, and my duty was an incredible opportunity for me to serve my country.”