In 1999, at 16 years old, she did just that, joined the Marines, and set off on a journey that was not the one she expected.
She sustained a small fracture in her left foot after bootcamp and the Marines attempted to discharge her. Without a fight, she asked for a second opinion and got transferred to Bethesda Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. She became attached to Headquarters Marine Corps HQMC in Arlington, Virginia, since that was the closest Marine base to the hospital.
On Labor Day weekend in 2001, she was involved in a serious automobile accident where she sustained a brain injury and a broken scapula.
A few weeks later on September 11, 2001, Sarah was set for a promotion ceremony in front of the Pentagon when a plane struck the Department of Defense headquarters in the 9/11 attacks. She made it out of the attacks unharmed, but two days later caught her left ankle in a concrete barrier while removing the remains of victims from the site. With a crushed ankle, Rudder continued removing victims for another two days. Rudder then underwent five reconstructive surgeries, but doctors weren’t able to save the leg and had to amputate it in 2014.
Sarah found hope through sports and worked hard to compete. She ultimately joined the Wounded Warrior program, which led her to the 2016 Invictus Games hosted by ESPN in Orlando. The Paralympics event, created by British Prince Harry for wounded service members, features multi-sport competitions aimed to inspire recovery.
Sarah not only competed in 7 sports during the Invictus Games including rowing, shot put, discus, powerlifting, and running, she became the “most decorated” athlete at the 2016 Invictus Games, winning seven medals for Team USA, four gold and three silver.
“It shows that just because I’m an amputee doesn’t mean I can’t go out and put my heart and soul on the track or any event that I do,” says Rudder.
As a hero to so many, the Ret. Lance Corporal Marine’s prosthetic leg is decorated with an illustration of women superheroes including Wonder Woman and others– her colleagues who continue to cheer her on to inspire others.
“Even though Wonder Woman is not exactly real, we still have someone to look up to and know that a woman is known for her strength,” Rudder said. “I want to be known for that as well.”