The lights dim. A spotlight hits the tunnel. The crowd roars. A man in a hooded satin robe trots down the ramp, punching the air. This is life’s main event. And that man is Rudy Reyes—former Recon Marine turned television host—a fighter whose work is never finished. Through self-discipline, and a lot of love, Rudy isn’t just battling his demons; he’s on pace for a TKO.
You may recognize him as the host for FOX’s show “Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test.” Or perhaps you’ve seen him on the HBO miniseries “Generation Kill.” He has been in commercials, on podcasts, on survival shows and in feature films. Often, he’s playing himself—his large- than-life personality is more suited to the screen than he ever thought possible. Rudy Reyes has a list of awards and accolades that he could stack to the ceiling, climb up and look down upon people he meets.
Instead, he has taken those accomplishments and built outposts for those around him that seek protection, need defending, healing, and benefit from his ongoing work in his return to grace.
Round 1: Childhood
Rudy's need for mental toughness began at an early age. For most of their childhood he and his brothers drifted from relative to relative, around the Midwest after their parents’ divorce and grandparents’ passing. They were finally settled at the Omaha Boys Home when Rudy was just 11. From there, he grounded himself in competition. Football, wrestling and the good guy/bad guy motifs in comic books laid the foundation for what was to come in his life. What some may call disadvantages in childhood had formed something deep inside Rudy. Something he would rely on in his next fight.
Round 2: Drive and Discipline
By the time Rudy had turned 18, he had emancipated himself and taken full custody of his younger brothers. That one statement is packed with more emotion and determination than most of us will ever understand. While Rudy was finding the strength to take that step, Martial Arts found Rudy.
He experienced enormous success in the field. When asked about his affinity for the sport, he said it offered a profound sense of empowerment and accomplishment through discipline. “In lieu of having a stable family, in lieu of having a father, or any kind of structure, I embraced those martial sports” he told me. “They made me feel stronger, better able to protect myself, and there’s no limit to your development. I’m still learning and I’m still practicing.” It was when Rudy began speaking of Martial Arts within its historical context that the passion really started to show. He spoke of the ancient Olympics—how those games reflected war, with events that utilized weaponry and hand to hand combat.
At 26, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corp. He made the decision after watching a documentary about children orphaned during warfare in Kosovo. Rudy wanted to fight. But more than that, Rudy was inspired to defend the innocent.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson once said “Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” When I asked Rudy how he managed to enlist as an infantry soldier and become an elite, invitation-only special forces operative within the Recon Marines, his answer was simple; “There is something inside of me—I don’t want to come in second place. I am going to give my very best.” His willingness to carry the burden of leadership of his unit, his determination and discipline, and his refusal to give less than his best was about to change his life.
Round 3: Mental Health Crisis
Like the ropes thread around the ring in boxing, you may notice a continuing theme in Rudy’s life; characteristics woven together like those nylon threads to create something vital to his fight.
Life after his tours of duty and service in the Recon Marines has been different, but Rudy remains motivated and inspired to retrace old steps and continue learning and growing. He referred to this time of his life as his “return to grace.” He’s determined to bring awareness to the ongoing mental health crisis in the military and first responder community. Empower and defend. Lead and love.
Rudy founded Force Blue, which is a Veteran non-profit that pairs former Special Operators with Marine Scientists to work to restore coral reefs, protect turtles and care for the planet. “It heals our freaking planet and heals our brothers and sisters that fight for the country” Rudy explains.
His concern doesn’t end with military veterans. “There’s a lot of my Recon brothers that are firefighters now” he says. “It seems like a natural progression from serving your country to serving your community.” Rudy is passionate about fitness, and the integration of physical and emotional wellness. When I asked him what advice he could offer our audience of hardworking men and women, he said “Your physical fitness is the best piece of equipment you possess. You can’t leave it behind. It’s always with you. In recon, we have a saying—there is no such thing as a badass. There’s only trained and untrained.”
Rudy fears that many of his brothers and sisters in the military and first responder communities are experiencing this mental health crisis. “These men and women are in combat and they’re on the edge” Rudy laments. “My message—what I have found to be most successful in my return to grace is my community and communication with them and setting up times to get together not to drink, not to commiserate about what we’ve lost, but to work out...to create a strong mind and body connection and create that good brain chemistry.”
Round 4: Removing Barriers
Rudy found HAIX thanks to his mother-in-law, herself a firefighter for over 30 years. He wears his Black Eagle side zips for his “out and about” tasks. He has been spotted on social media in the Scout 2.0. Rudy is often in the spotlight—endorsements, press, film, and television. I asked him how he found himself hosting a television show on a major network, but after our lengthy conversation, I already knew why. The linear nature of all his opportunities had become evident. The “how” and the “why” for Rudy boils down to his grit, his discipline, and his work ethic. Each day requires self-awareness, kindness, and determination. He relies on his discipline and communication with his wife and with his community. He digs deep to face emotions, so that they can play more authentically for the millions tuning in. Rudy does it for his own benefit. And Rudy does it all for the benefit of others. He isn’t a cup that is either full (for himself) or poured out (for others). He is an electrical circuit—grounded, drawing from life’s energy to power himself, and to light the way for others.