What families today are made of

By Suzanne Rust

When he felt it was time to end his successful 20-year military career in 2003, Scott Rutter laughs that he took a tip from Jerry Seinfeld: "I got out while I was still on top!" The retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, decorated with a Silver Star for his work during Operation Iraqi Freedom, was renowned not only for his tactical skills but for the bonds he formed with his troops. "I knew each one of my soldiers, my squad leaders, my platoon sergeants," says Scott. "I knew if they were left-handed or right-handed. I knew who their families were, and that we had support groups to take care of them. It was important to me to say, 'We're going to call every single soldier's mother and father and tell them that we'll watch over their kid'—and we're going to make sure that we do."

The Philadelphia native extends that loving hands-on attention to his wife of 20 years, Jolienne, and teenage sons Seth and Luke. "Scott adores working hard and has done so from the time we were married. He believes that luck finds the person who pushes through," says Jolienne. "I love his commitment to our country and his work ethic." Scott appreciates his wife's dedication to him, their sons and veterans. "It's 100%," he says, acknowledging that without the support of his family, he wouldn't be where he is today. "They gave me confidence and encouraged me to explore fields that I wasn't necessarily comfortable with."

After Scott retired, he didn't do much for a year, save for some public speaking. But then Fox News brought him in as a war correspondent, and he was embedded with a team of reporters in Iraq. "I stayed in my lane; I focused on the soldiers."

Finding the best way to advocate for the men and women in the military is Scott's calling. He's been an advisor to presidential candidates, both to then senator Hillary Clinton in 2008 and to Mitt Romney in 2012. He serves as national spokesman and member of the board for TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors). Along with Jolienne, he created the Valor Network, a telemedicine business focused on the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients via telecommunication technology that benefits soldiers and vets. The learning curve was steep, but the business they started out of their home is now a multimillion-dollar company. Scott is grateful for his wife's corporate smarts. "Thank God I'm married to a CPA—she knows how to balance things!"

The boys help out with whatever needs to be done on the weekends. "We try to teach our sons the importance of community service and the value of putting yourself in other people's shoes," says Jolienne. "They're involved in the local parades and in aiding our veterans."

When asked what we can do for our vets, Scott says we need improved state and county initiatives. Jolienne agrees: "We believe the government can do a better job transitioning veterans by providing coordinated medical care as well as job opportunities and educational options. We hire vets in our business, and it's one of the best decisions we ever made."

After all he's seen and lived through—including serving as a commander during two combat tours in Iraq, in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom—Scott doesn't let the little things get him down. "I have a motto: It's a good day when no one is shooting at me! Nothing is worse. Nothing. Anything that's out there now can be fixed with hard work and focus. Just pick something up and try to make it better. That's what I try to do every single day."

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How did you get into the military?

I went to small college in North Carolina. I was the first generation in my family to go, but I decided to join the ROTC. I loved navigation; I thought it was fun stuff. Growing up, I was always a bit on the edge. I had longer hair than the rest of my group, and I was a city kid from Philadelphia, but I found myself with the guys. I loved the challenge of exploring things I wasn't comfortable with and I loved learning. I surrounded myself with vets—the sergeants that taught me were Vietnam vets—and they must have seen the sparkle in my eye. They could tell that I was ready to step up to plate; I wasn't afraid. I began my military career like that, and 3 years turned to 6, 6 turned to 9, then 9 turned to 20. It was a big decision to get out.

Are you in still in contact with your soldiers?

My taskforce was between 800 and 900 people and about 300 of us are still in touch through Facebook. If someone falls down, I'm often the first person they call. We talk, we have a bond—we have trust.

How did you and your wife meet?

We met in a chat room on aol.com back in the early '90s, at the brink of social networking—before online dating and all that existed. I think we started connecting about the fact that she was from New York and I was from Philadelphia. We talked about business or something; she was an accountant at Arthur Anderson in Newport Beach, California. So we chatted back and forth, and one day she said she was coming out east and we decided to meet. We hadn't even seen each other's picture! In fact, she always tells the story of the photo that never arrived... I took a picture of myself out in the field or something, to send to her before we met, but I looked like a mess. She told me she was glad that she didn't get the picture first or she wouldn't have come! Thank God for the post office not delivering on time!