Stepping out of modeling and into the military is a career move few ladies would venture into, especially if there is the possibility of war. But no one ever said Sarah Ritterhouse was just another pretty face.
In fact, those who know her may speak to quite the contrary. Due to her courage under pressure, athleticism and adrenaline-pumping activities, a life in the military may not surprise those who know the 21-year-old as a second-degree blackbelt in taekwondo who enjoys extreme sports and trying exciting new things.
Although she is a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, studying criminal justice and military science, Ritterhouse is out to achieve something greater than a college degree. She is aspiring to be a leader as an Army ROTC cadet by attending the Leader’s Training Course, an intense four-week introduction to Army life and leadership training of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. It is the premier leadership program of its kind in the United States.
Explaining her interest in the military, Ritterhouse admits, “I like to push myself to the limit. I’m kind of an adrenaline junky. I love extreme sports, snowboarding, climbing things that shouldn’t be climbed, then jumping off them into the water — probably the best feeling in the world — also hiking, reading, swimming, basically anything that involves learning and movement.
“I’ve been told that I’m very resilient and determined. That means I’ll bounce back from any setback to get whatever I need. I grew up watching ‘Rambo’ and ‘G.I. Jane’ and thinking, ‘Yes! I’d like to be in the military!’ Now I am. At LTC you can actually win a scholarship. So I chose LTC and I won a scholarship. My contract is for eight years, which is fine with me. If I get active duty as opposed to serving in the National Guard I’ll make a career out of it.”
The Foxtrot Company cadet said she began modeling at age 14 after meeting and signing with Agentia Talent and Training in Chattanooga. Unlike the military, where everyone dresses the same, Ritterhouse was a tall, alluring standout with a promising career in runway modeling and acting — had she chosen entertainment as her profession. Instead, she decided to attend the Leader’s Training Course in Fort Knox, Ky., and gain the experience of Army life — doing sit-ups, push-ups, a 2-mile run — and learning the responsibilities of being an officer.
“I’ll always have a passion for modeling and acting,” Ritterhouse admits. “I love it and I really miss it. However, the sense of duty I feel to my country is stronger than my passion for modeling. I want to make a difference in the world, so I couldn’t think of a better way to do that than to serve my country. This way I will go into the Army, as a second lieutenant next year.”
In particular, Ritterhouse, whose intellect suggest an above average IQ, is interested in branch code 35 — military intelligence. To reach that career goal, she applied for a foreign language scholarship, which offers the widest range of career choices in the military.
“I had to get two letters of recommendation and fill out an extensive application, but I got it,” she said. “They’re sending me to Indiana University over the summer to study Russian or Turkish. I first chose Turkish until I started reading about how Russia was invading the Ukraine and what (Russian President Vladimir) Putin was doing. I thought that was pretty interesting. So I might switch over to Russian if they let me. My expenses are covered, so we’ll see. I’m really excited.”
With her husband, Kristopher, being a sergeant in the Army, Ritterhouse has had all the support she needs and is happy he encouraged her to take the officer’s route instead of simply enlisting. She said she is especially proud of Kristopher, who was recently selected to go into U.S. Army Special Forces as a staff sergeant.
“He was awarded a Purple Heart after his last tour in Afghanistan,” she explained. “After reviewing the documents that were written about what happened over there, they selected him to go to Washington, D.C., on May 24 of this year,” she added. “Either the President or some high officer in the chain of command will be giving him the Angels of the Battlefield Award and making him the face of the combat medic of the U.S. Army. They’re flying me out there for the ceremony.”
Although she is preparing for a new life in the military, Ritterhouse still has time to work as an assistant marketing director and assistant technical officer for The Academy of Mutual Interest in Motion Pictures, a company with the goal of raising awareness, awarding, preserving and encouraging quality filmmaking, and which bills itself as “The people's voice in motion pictures!” Ritterhouse, a shareholder in the company, said contributing to the quality of the performing arts is something she believes in personally and professionally, which is why she supports AMIMP and the U.S. military.
When asked about the most precious part of her life, that of being a mother to her son James, Ritterhouse confessed, “It’s the most rewarding, challenging job I’ve ever had. My son is my hero. The most challenging part for me is leaving for my military training and college classes. I hope one day he knows that everything I do is for him. I want to give him the best life possible.”
While no one ever said maintaining a marriage, a military career, going to college and raising a child with family support would be easy, Ritterhouse has never been about taking the easiest way through life. Instead, she believes her most rewarding experiences will come by living the life of her dreams. In doing so, the Cleveland native admits to being on a journey of self-discovery that will not only fulfill her dreams, but hopefully, the dreams she has for her family and country.
“I’ve learned so much about myself over the past few years,” she said. “I do see things differently. I’ve learned that selfless service is what brings true happiness. And most importantly I’ve learned to look at life in terms of acceptance. You can’t change how people treat you, but you can change how you treat yourself. I want to obtain my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, [earn a] commission in the Army, serve for 20 years, then apply for the FBI’s hostage rescue team. I graduate and commission next year, and that’s where my journey begins.”