By MaryTherese Griffin, Warrior Care and TransitionOctober 2, 2018
ARLINGTON, Va. - U.S. Army retired Sgt. Jeane Saari-Ruiz, who sought out martial arts for health and wellness, won her fourth World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Las Vegas in August. "I'm 52 years old and my young ladies and kids love that I compete at my age," said Saari-Ruiz who recently earned a black belt.
The former tank turret repairer, turned nurse case manager at the Temple Veterans Affairs Hospital in Temple, Texas, teaches Soldiers how to seek health and wellness through the Fort Hood, Texas Warrior Transition Unit. She says one might be surprised at the number of young Soldiers who are diagnosed with devastating illnesses and not able to continue their Army career. "The first thing I tell [new Soldiers] is their main job is to make it to appointments and take care of themselves," Saari-Ruiz said. "The WTU offers numerous opportunities and programs for Soldiers in transition through the U.S. Army Medical Command Deputy Chief of Staff for Warrior Care and Transition, Warrior Care and Transition Program. Soldiers have to prepare themselves for the future; whether staying in the Army or transitioning into civilian life."
The married mother of five adult children and grandmother to seven grandsons says her jiu-jitsu world titles help Soldiers see her dedication and hard work paying off with absolute fulfillment.
"I truly believe the WCTP is a great program. Soldiers in the WTU have a multi-disciplinary team that is there for their welfare and to help them heal and recover," added Saari-Ruiz.
From adaptive reconditioning to education and beyond, Saari-Ruiz introduces Soldiers to many things, including a concept many aren't familiar with; putting their needs first.
"Some of [the WTU] Soldiers were in charge of other Soldiers and had to take care of them first. So [putting themselves first] is unfamiliar territory to them."
With four jiu-jitsu world titles to her name, Saari-Ruiz knows a thing or two about working toward a goal and achieving it and she's using her experience to help Soldiers navigate their way to a successful recovery and transition.