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Sept. 7, 2022

"Soledier Socks"Was Created with Combat Necessity with Founder Elle Rueger and Combat Navy Vet Tommy

"Soledier Socks"Was Created with Combat Necessity with Founder Elle Rueger and Combat Navy Vet Tommy

Warriors, Fall in…

Today, I’m joined with the founder of a company that’s in the business of making military inspired socks. I’m also joined with an Afghanistan combat war Veteran who inspired this husband and wife team to create this American owned business.

On The Morning Formation Podcast, we talk about military career transition, well I was approached by this company, heard their story, how things came to fruition for them, and how much they’ve been helping our community. So, I wanted to share this company’s story with you!

So, right now, some of folks listening might be thinking “Socks?” Why? Who cares, right? Well, I’m here to tell you that if you’ve ever conducted:

A.    10 mile plus ruck march with a 40 lbs plus pack

B.    Ever been deployed for months and months in the extreme climate or

C.     You’re constantly on your feet doing work tasks, such as construction, medical, or first responder type of work

Then, you know and understand that footcare is optimal. Today, we’re going to hear the story and evolution of Soledier Socks from one of the founders, Elle Rueger and were going to kick off this show today meeting one of their closest friends, Tommy, who helped inspire Soledier Socks!

Get 20% off Soldier Socks! Use the discount code: TMF
https://www.solediersocks.com/tmf

Other resources mentioned:

DOD E-library (ebooks/audiobooks for veterans)
https://www.dodmwrlibraries.org/

Fed VTE (free cybersecurity training for veterans)
https://fedvte.usalearning.gov/


Transcript
KP:

This episode is powered by ACT NOW EDUCATION, go to www.actnoweducation.com for free comprehensive educational resources and opportunities for active duty, veterans, military spouses, and children.

Elle Rueger:

And for us, it was the give back was what spurred the entire mission. And so that sock, the one that was being donated, that we still sell to this day on our site had to be the best, most perfect sock for the combat boot. And so, yeah, a lot of it, a little bit of effort went into developing that for sure.

KP:

Warriors fall in, it's time for formation. Today, I'm joined with the founder of a company that's in the business of making military inspired socks. I'm also joined was an Afghanistan combat war veteran who inspired this husband and wife team to create this American owned business. Now on the Morning Formation Podcast, we typically talk about military career transition. Well, I was approached by this specific company, I listened to their story, heard how the business itself came to fruition, and how much they've been helping out our military community. So I wanted to share this company story with you. So right now, some folks listening might be thinking socks. Why? Who cares, right? Well, I'm here to tell you. And I'm sure that our guests as well can can attest to this that if you've ever conducted a 10 mile plus ruck march with a 40 pound plus pack on your back. If you've ever been deployed for months and months in extreme climate, or if you've ever been on a job constantly on your feet doing work tasks, such as construction, medical or first responder type of work, then you will know you'll appreciate and understand that footcare is optimal. Today we're gonna hear the story and evolution of soldier sots from one of the founders Elle Rueger. And we're gonna kick off the show today meeting one of their closest friends Tommy, who helped inspire Soledier socks. I want to thank Al and Tommy for being with us today on the morning formation podcast. I really appreciate you both being here.

Elle Rueger:

Thank you for having us.

Tommy:

Thanks for having us, man.

KP:

The honor is all mine. I really appreciate it because I know you guys are super busy with your full time jobs and running this business. And I'd like to kick it off by having you both introduce yourselves. And can we start with you Elle?

Elle Rueger:

sure, thanks. So I am Elle Rueger.. I am the founder of Soledier Socks. We officially launched in 2017, after mulling over it for about seven years when Tommy got back from Afghanistan 2010. And kind of implanted the idea of this company which essentially is when you purchase a pair of socks, we donate a pair of socks to troops and veterans in the purchasers name.

KP:

It's great work, I am truly inspired myself by the fact that you were touched by Tommy's deployment as well. He must be a very close dear friend of yours. Tommy, would you mind telling our audience a little bit about your time in the military and a little about who you are as well?

Tommy:

Absolutely. And again, thanks for having us on here. KP. So yeah, a little bit about me. I'm just the salty, middle aged vet, "dad bod" that's been creeping in every few years, sort of losing that battle, but I do embrace it. I have a wife, three kids, I live in the suburbs. I have a good paying job, and pretty much all that it's all direct result of my time in uniform. Right now, in the civilian side. I work in financial crime investigations for a midsize company. I've been doing that for about eight years. I currently lead a team. I've been in the military since 2005. So roughly about 17 years. Did eight as an enlisted guy, nine years as an officer. So yes, I cross over the dark side. All that was reserves. But altogether, I've spent about three years on active duty and that includes one deployment to Afghan, 2009 and was about one year end to end. One last note on that, you know, the military has shaped me as person, it's more so than anything else that I've ever done. It's everything that I do, the way I think, the way I work, the way I interact with people. So yep, that's a little bit about me in a nutshell.

KP:

Tommy talking about going over the dark side. I did the same thing, man. I was in the Army National Guard enlisted and then I commissioned into active duty Army and became an officer, a commissioned officer as well. And my old man was a 20 year retired E-8, First Sergeant. So a lot of his friends I ran into when I was in Iraq or while I was stationed out Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. They looked at me like what the, what the hell happened to you, like your dad was this hardcore Army Ranger drill sergeant and you're like, this butter bar at the time, I was a butter bar. But so so I feel you on that dark side thing that you're talking about. Tommy would you mind talking to our audience about why you decided that Join the Navy. And talk to us about your your deployment.

Tommy:

Absolutely. So, you know, it all started when I was a kid, my, my grandpa, he was an Army combat engineer in World War Two. I think a lot of folks in our generation had grandfathers or dads who were in the service. And he talked about it, it really played a huge part in his life. And, you know, something I wanted to do, but then after 911,...pardon me. After 911, it went from being something that I was interested in doing to something that "I need to do this, because we're at war." So I was in college at the time, once I graduated, I did it backwards. So I went to college first and the service. Graduated '04, '05 I went into the service, spoke to a few different recruiters. I went into the Navy recruiter, and he tells me about the Seabees, which for any your listeners not familiar with them, Seabees is the Navy's construction battalions. There, I guess the best way you can describe them as combat construction, or dare I say combat engineers. I'm sure there's some Army guys that might want to punch me for saying that one. But you know, the Seabee motto is we build, we fight. And you know while, while the Seabees are part of the Navy, most of us, we stay pretty firmly rooted on land. Never been on a ship before. So why would I go Navy? Well the recruiter said if you go into the Seabees, you might get to blow things up, you might get to build some things too, but you might get to play with some cool guns. So as a 20 something year-old guy, I'm like, "This is awesome. Like, let's do this." So I went in. Spent a few years. It was right around the height of the Iraq War. Few years later, we got our orders to go to Afghanistan, 2009, then it got pushed to 2010. I bounced around in a couple of jobs. On paper on paper, I was a builder. But I was more interested in the tactical side. And then I got into comms, communications. Worked with tactical radios, had to learn everything from the ground up. And you know, as we were heading out the door, we had spun up an organic convoy security team. And, you know, that was the thing that a lot of the CBU units were doing. When we got in the country, our Skipper who was a real cowboy, he said, you know, rather than running our CSE team or convoy security element, rather than run our CSE team, with other support, we'll do that initially. But we want to run it organically. And that means running our own comms. So I jumped on that. And long story short, I was just in the right place at the right time. And it literally set the pace for the rest of my life. The stuff I got to do out there, it gave me the motivation and just the drive to do things like we'd have to get a mission out the door in a few hours. And I find out that one of the systems is down and the COs like yeah, we're leaving, whether you fix it or not. So as much as that freaks a lot of people out, like I was like, "Alright, let's get it done." And I got to do that. And you know, I'd stay up for days straight at a time. But we did a lot of really good work over there. I made a lot of really good friends. But as I was over there, you know, and working with electronics, I got into counter radio controlled IED electronic warfare, which was the coolest part of my job and back home in my civilian life, I worked this this kind of dead end job. I didn't make a lot of money. It sucked. I dreamed about another life the whole time. So Mike, you know what? I'm gonna use any little spare time I got and I'm going to figure out my next move. And that's what I did. And, you know, I had a lot going for me, but it was a lot harder than I thought. You know, it was, it was a struggle. I came back and it took me a few years to get where I needed to go. But one of the things I did was when I came back, I was so interested in the information warfare side, the comms side, intelligence side, I got to interact with a lot of these people over there. I put in for a commission. It took me four recruiters to get to the one who would take a chance on me. And she did and I put in for a commission as an Intel officer. I didn't get it the first time but then I got it the second time. And I made it my point to make sure that everybody there knew I belonged. It was fun. It was a lot of fun. I'd been doing that for nine years. It led to what I do on the civilian side. A lot of folks in my community work in financial crime investigations, financial intelligence, federal law enforcement, local law enforcement. You know, it was really great and I get to have this nice life and do something that I really enjoy and really, really love pretty much because of my time in the military. So I know that was kind of verbose. I went down a rabbit hole or two but yeah, that's my, that's my story.

KP:

No Tommy, I mean, honestly, Tommy, the story that you just told is a story from many veterans can also relate to as well. And the Morning Formation podcast and myself, you know, we strive to solve that pain point of career transition, and our military community finding themselves after service. It sounds like you kind of went down the same corridors that a lot of folks do. When you get out, you try to figure out like, what do I want to do next? What's my next jump from here? So it's great to hear that you landed in a great spot that you're in right now. And it seems like that, that this spot is a very important role that you're playing right now. And it's something that that you find, that you find interesting, and you're you are where you want to be in life. And I think that, unfortunately, you had to go through that,through that rough patch. But that's something that we try to fix here at the Morning Formation Podcat, and also the non nonprofit that I'm a board member for, ACT NOW EDUCATION. Together, we try to figure out how to make that career transition a little bit better. Going back to Soledier Socks, Elle, what's the connection here? I mean, how do you know Tommy?

Elle Rueger:

Yeah, so we are...oh, my gosh, Tommy, how long? Have we been friends? Since probably 2006. Right? I think right after you probably join the military,

Tommy:

Yeah, we started our friendship. And I just wanna say thank you for dumbing down the acronyms for the civilian in the room. Like saying what they stand for, because I have no idea. So I appreciate that. And so basically, we, his wife is one of my best friends, and we work together. And that's how we met. And so Tommy was really our first experience with a military member. I have family members who served but going through the deployment with him and seeing his wife, home, and you guys didn't have kids at the time. I think that was helpful, a little bit. But it was challenging, like seeing some of the challenges that she was dealing with. You guys were newly married. And so it was, it was just eye opening to kind of see it through your experience. And just to... you were the first person we sent care packages to who was deployed and we loved keeping in touch with him as much as possible. It's not like it is now. I feel like servicemembers are so lucky. When they're on deployment and being able to communicate with their loved ones back home. It was still pretty challenging to keep in touch with him. And so we've had a friendship that span many, many years. And...back to the Soledier Socks and Tommy's role in it. He really, just like I said, open our eyes to not only you know, the importance of socks when we sent the socks in the care packages, but also just some of the challenges that military members face when they're transitioning out. He said his dead end job that he was going through. I don't know if it's okay, if I say this and KP, you can cut stuff out, I'm sure, but I remember when you got back home, and they were not nice to you. I mean, legally, they have to hold your position, right, when you deploy and then you come back home. They can't give away your position. But they were just, oh my god, they were so rude. Like, basically treated him like an errand boy, when he got back home. Like "Go get our coffee" and all this stuff. And he had a super important role while he was deployed overseas. And so it was very eye opening, to say the least, of some of the, some of the challenges of reintegrating back into civilian life after being deployed. That really opened our eyes. And then the socks is just a, like a happy coincidence. So we had put them in care packages, and sent them to him because they were on his list. And I remember we were doing footage search for the Today Show. And we were looking for photos of you on your deployment. And just anything you could remember. And you came across a picture of your foot, that you had taken while you were deployed, and a bacterial infection was starting on it. And when you sent it over, you basically said that after getting the good quality socks we had sent to you, I think it was within two weeks, your foot cleared up and that infection finally went away. And so that's pretty much what spurred the idea of, excuse me, sorry, that's what spurred the idea of...we could have this company where somebody purchases a pair, and then we could sent a good quality pair out to our troops who are deployed.

KP:

Yeah, I think that's a great story. I mean, I can tell you that even from my deployment in 2004, my dad would ask me, "Hey, what do you want me to send you? What do you want me to send you?" And I would tell him, "I need you to send me some type of like tube of caulk." Because I was living in this, I was living in this hardstand and this hardstand had been there since before the war. And there was big cracks in the walls that spiders and scorpions and shit would like crawl through and I was sleeping at night. And it's the little things that you don't think about when you're back here at home and you have the comfort of going to Walmart or Target and getting those things. You don't have that when you're downrange. And so that, that part really touched me when you talked about how you were just sending him socks and how the simplest things can sometimes mean the most to the folks that are actually deployed out there. Now, Elle, as far as like the socks themselves, would you mind talking about what makes them so special? Is it the materials? Is it the actual design?

Elle Rueger:

Yeah, so we spent a year and a half on research and development on that one particular sock that we donate. And it's named the "Thomas" after Tommy. So we basically wanted something that would be really good quality with stay tough elements, not get holes in it for a good amount of time, because you know, you're on a year deployment. And it's not like you want to keep going through those socks if you don't have to. And so, a year and a half is what we spent. And so we we use a blend of yarns versus like merino wool, for example, which I love, I think it's a great composition, we have those socks, they're phenomenal. But the merino wool is a natural fiber. And so that will hold, it will wick the moisture away from your foot, but it will hold it within those fibers. Versus the synthetic fibers that we use, it wicks the moisture away and pushes it out into your shoe. So it's fully removing away from your foot, which is really helpful in keeping those bacterial infections off of your feet. And so I think we're a little reverse than a lot of companies that have a giveback component. For a lot of companies it's like "Okay, you know, we are, we're a brand, we're a business and let's give 10% back to this cause." Or 10% here for whatever marketing reason. And for us, it was the give back was what spurred the entire mission. And so that sock, the one that was being donated, that we still sell to this day on our site, had to be the best, most perfect sock for the combat boot. And so, yeah, a lot of, a little bit of effort went into developing that for

KP:

Yeah, no, it totally makes sense. And, you know, I was sure. talking to someone about this the other day, the Iraq and Afghanistan war. Overall, like as a country, we've had to sort of revolutionize a lot of the products that we have. I was talking the other day to a gentleman who was a Top Gun pilot, and he was talking about how he's invented a product where he can launch drones while moving at the same time. And I was thinking to myself, you know, Tommy was just talking about convoy ops, convoy operations, which can be very dangerous at times. Because you're basically trying to get from point A to point B, as safe as possible, as fast as possible. But then the insurgents are out there trying to stop that from happening. So the concept that this guy was talking about, launching a drone while moving, I mean, to me, was, I mean, that's born from the combat that we experienced. And same thing with these socks as well, right. I mean, before this, we had just regular cotton socks, and we had different types and things like that. So this product that you have right now, you know, it comes from Tommy, and the necessity of, you know, taking care of his feet so that he can stay in the game and stay in the fight.

Elle Rueger:

Even before then, right. I mean, the Marines in their motto, which are water, socks, trench foot and stuff. So I mean, it's something that military's been dealing with for...

KP:

Totally

Elle Rueger:

...for years. Yeah. So in addition to our one for one sock

KP:

I went through air assault course. And that's all you do is ruck marches. And that's the one thing is, at the end of the last day of Air Assault, man, a lot of people had some hurt, hurt donation, like I said, Tommy kind of opened up our eyes to a dogs. And so yeah, feet are really important in order to stay in the fight for sure. So Elle since you started doing all this, would you mind explaining how, how much or what you've done to help out the military community through Soledier Socks? lot of the challenges that the military community community faces, and then dealing with members of the military through what we've done, whether it's social media or whatnot. We've come to partner with different nonprofits who service military community, whether they be active, transitioning, veterans. And we basically created our Stand For A Cause line. And so in addition, we'll create a sock with a nod to that specific nonprofit. And in addition to our one for one sock donation, we also donate monetarily back to that nonprofit, as well. But the main goal is really just to raise awareness. Being civilian owned, we, we didn't know a lot of things. And I know a lot of our friends have no clue if you don't have good friends in the military who are willing to talk about it. And so we want to do our part on the civilian sector, just to just really helped raise awareness for a lot of the challenges that members of the military community are facing. Yeah, that's really important for sure. And I appreciate Soledier Socks getting involved in that and being part of that fight as well, as far as helping out the military community. Because like you just mentioned about, Tommy's wife, military spouses, is something else that it's also a pain point. A lot of people don't understand how difficult it is to be married to someone in the military during a time of war. And so, with that being said, there's just so many aspects of the military life that can be very, very difficult and you can...and you live in a world where I think 93% never serve. So with that being said, I highly appreciate folks like you that can can see those pain points of what a military person goes through, when they're serving, serving our country. Anyone out there that's listening, Elle, where can they purchase the socks? And is there a special discount for any of the listeners of The Morning Formation Podcast?

Elle Rueger:

Yes, so we have to come up with our promo codes. So we could do it TMF that's probably the easiest one for someone to type in. And our website is SoledierSocks.com that spelled S-O-L-E, like the sole of your foot, it's a play on words. We did not misspell soldier. So it's S-O-L-E-D-I-E-R, S-O-C-K-S.com. And then if you use "TMF" , you will get 20% off of your total purchase.

KP:

Awesome, awesome. And just as my own testimonial, Elle, check this out.

Elle Rueger:

Look at it!

KP:

Been wearing them all day out here in Southern California. It's definitely a necessity in this in this hot heat today. It's, I think we're pushing 95 degrees out here. And it's feels like every bit ...

Elle Rueger:

Miserable!

KP:

Feels like, feels like every bit of 95 out here. So, Tommy, before we get off here, man, I just want to give you an opportunity to give any final pieces of advice for our listeners within the military community. Do you have anything, of words of support or any pieces of advice that you can provide for our listeners out there?

Tommy:

Absolutely. A few pieces of advice and all these all Second, find a military-friendly employer, one that is actually these were born from struggle. Struggles that made me who I am. And you know, I'm happy I went through them. Sucked when I was military friendly. And what I mean by that it's someone who going through them, but you know. First and foremost, and proactively hires vets. And even more importantly, reservists this, I gotta plug this. If you were downrange, and you had any exposure to burn pits, sign up for the burn pit registry, just do it, stop putting it off, just do it. It's never too late. I won't belabor that. I mean, it's it's in the news a lot now, and the government's finally taking it seriously. But I've been plagued with problems from those, for years. I got in the VA system, I had to fight them for a couple of years, and the VA has improved quite a bit. But I got my name on that burn pit registry, and it really helped me out. So just do it. Don't you know, don't think it's nothing and blow it off. I lost a friend to it. I've had health problems for years, just take it seriously. It's a, it's a real deal. because one of the things that a lot of folks forget when they say they're pro military. So when you have reservists, you're going to lose them for two weeks every year, you're probably going to lose them for more than that maybe three weeks a year, you might lose them to a deployment. The chances of that are a little less now, than they were five or even 10 years ago, but you know, it's still a commitment. And one thing I say is if an employer says that they're military friendly, you're going through the interview process and just ask them, what's their policy on short term military leave? If they don't provide military leave for reserve training, and they're a big company, I'd be inclined to say, "Yeah, I don't know if you're so military friendly." That might be virtue signaling. And I'll say it with this caveat, in the 15 years that I've been in the professional world while being in the reserves, with the exception of my my employer who I came back to after Afghanistan that we talked about, most have been on that, you know, on the good side of that coin. They pay you for military leave. I worked for one place where, out of the 200 person financial crimes department we had, we had at least 30 vets there. 30 of us. I mean, that was powerful. We got, we got the policy changed. We had a guy that was a retired colonel that was leading it. So yeah, we got that changed. Now, unfortunately, I encountered a situation where that was not the case. So I had to dig into my, my paid time off and vacation leave and I got kids. It's a couple of weeks a year. If you're a big employer, you should be paying for this and courts are starting to trend that way where they are siding with veterans. That said, I know I went a little long on that one, but I got a couple more. If you're still in the reserves, you have so many resources available to help you and your civilian career. You got your DOD E-library, sign up for it. I consume books by the hundreds per year. Audiobooks, because I ain't got time to read, I got three kids. So I listen to them while mowing the lawn or while I'm commuting to work, when I used to commute. There's also Fed VTE, which will help you get set up with computer courses. Anything of a technical nature, there's a Riley learning online all sorts of technical books. Yeah, there's a lot out there, just just figure this stuff out. It helped me it took me a long time. But I'm where I need to be. And that it, I'm really happy. I could say that. Lastly, c You know, whether it's a like, I got my campaign metal, and I got a rock, a rock from this combat outpost that we built in Kandahar province. So anytime that you run into stress or issues at your civilian job, you just got to look at that. And you remember who you are. Like Elle said, I went back to a job where they treated me pretty lousy. So you know what? I brought that campaign metal with me. And I let it sit there at my desk every day. And I look at it. And anytime I had to deal with any nonsense from people I worked with, or the boss. I'd look at it. And I'd say, You know what? I did this. You guys didn't. I did. So it was really helpful. I still use it to this day. People ask me, Why do you have so many little rocks there?....But that said, you know, it's been a, it's been a great run. I couldn't be happier at where my life took me. And I have to say it's, it's all been because of what I did in uniform. So cheers.

KP:

Yeah, that's, that's outstanding, man. That's actually a great, great piece of advice. This, this right here that you see back here, this is a piece of dead cord from an IED that I ran over. And that, that right there, I threw into a box. And I somehow did not throw it away. I threw away a lot of things because I just wanted to move on with my life. And this reminds me every day of you know who I am, what I stand for. And you know, it's I stand with my military community. That's why I'm back at the table running this podcast. Because I know we're, we're a minority in the population when it comes to actually have served and actually have been combat before. So it's really important to highlight folks like yourself and Soldier Socks, and Elle and her husband, Mike, who are making a difference within the community. So thank you very much, Tommy, for joining us today on the Morning Formation Podcast. And before we get off here, Elle, would you like to say one or two things to the community, to know about you or the business?

Elle Rueger:

I just want to say thank you so much for suggesting. We've been doing a few podcasts lately. And you suggesting to bring Tommy on was the best idea. When we first launched this business, Tommy will attest that he was very in the background. Like even, we were naming all of our socks after the last name. And we couldn't use that. We wouldn't, we weren't even sure we could name the original sock after him. And so to be able to let Tommy have a stage to tell his story and let people know about it. And I just get to be a bystander, like that is the ultimate. And I'm just so excited to be here as a witness on this and hear you guys chat about it. And so thank you for this opportunity to let the world get to know a little bit about the person who inspired the whole brand.

KP:

No, I think it's really important. I think that's what ties everything together for the community. It's... Tommy, you're lucky man, you got a pair of socks that are named after you...

Elle Rueger:

and free socks for life.

KP:

Exactly. So Elle, anyone out there interested in contacting you about Soldier Socks or wish to message you...What's the best platforms or email, which also mentioned your website as well? hmm.

Elle Rueger:

Yep, you can find us on our website. All of our social media handles are @SoledierSocks. S -O-L-E-D-I-E-R, S-O-C-K-S. And if you would like to reach out via email, you can reach me at elle@solediersocks.com

KP:

Sounds great. And I'll make sure that I put some of the information down in the show notes, some of the things that Tommy mentioned, VTE, and some of the audio books that he suggested as well, as well as Soledier Socks and how to contact you. Tommy, Elle, I want to thank you for joining us on The Morning Formation Podcast. It's been an absolute pleasure to hear your story and it's been an honor on my end to hear the story. It's great to hear the inspiration behind the product itself. So thank you both for your time.

Elle Rueger:

Thank you.

Tommy:

Thanks KP, It was an honor man.

KP:

Yeah, it's been great even before the show, talking to you Tommy about a lot of the, lot of the things that you dealt with in the military and even what's going on in your current life. So thank you so much Elle for getting us connected and bringing him on the show and and it's been an absolute honor on this end. And for the folks out there listening. Check out Soledier Socks. Go down to the show notes. If you're watching this on YouTube, you can check in the description, I put all the information right there, you should be able to click on the actual website and get to where you need to go. If all else you can message me on Instagram or LinkedIn, you know where to find me. For anyone else out there, as always, I want you to stay tuned, stay focused and stay motivated. Warriors fall out.