Jessica LaRusso Is a Model Veteran

By Marcus Hyde

Real unicorns don’t exist, but Jessica LaRusso does – and that’s close enough. The full-time model isn’t just a whip-smart yet down-to-earth babe with a passion for animals. She also spent four years in the United States Army. Shot by Marcus Hyde in Laurel Canyon, let’s take more than a mere moment to thank her for her service, while she tells us about her army experience in her own words.

Photography by Marcus Hyde.

  • “I’m from Chicago. I started off with Ford Chicago when I was a baby. I modeled in high school and it was mostly like, ‘This is better money than babysitting.” I always knew I was going to go to school. I left for New York when I was 17 to go to Fordham. It was there I was introduced to the military. They have a really big Reserves Officer Training Core program, which covers all of Manhattan.”

    “I had never really been around it before. I’d see everybody dressed in their military uniforms running around the campus training. I thought, ‘What is this?’ I had a really good girlfriend who was doing it. She told me more about it and I don’t know what compelled me, but I was really drawn to it. I didn’t come from a military family. My great-grandparents served, but nobody in my immediate family.”

    “I think at that point, I wanted to really challenged myself. I wanted to do something I had no experience in to push myself. But it wasn’t for any political reason or anything like that. I was just drawn to it.”

    “This was 2007, so I technically joined in 2008. It wasn’t too long after 9/11, so there was a lot going on. I did a year of ROTC, realized, ‘Yes, this is what I want to do,’ and then I joined the New York Army National Guard so I could stay in New York City.”

    “I was still in school, so I was working full-time and doing school full-time. I loved it. I did recruiting for all of Manhattan and all of New York state. I was in charge of everything from their onboarding to getting them enlisted to their training.”

    “I went to basic training, then did my advanced training: I did all of that in the summer during college. I went to officer school myself down in Fort Benning, Georgia and ended up getting injured during training.”

    “It was such a transformative few years of my life because I basically went from being a high school student to being a soldier. Suddenlty, I had my shit together!“

    “I think the biggest thing about it is you’re expected to do things other people can’t handle. The expectation is that you’re going to meet it. To be in a group of people in which you’re expected to perform at your highest level all the time shows you what you’re capable of.”

    “I’m kind of a tomboy at heart so I really liked the training aspect. If I hadn’t gotten hurt, things could be very different. I’d probably still be in the military. I also think everything worked out how it was supposed to.”

    “I got out during a weird time, too. It was 2012. When I started, they had beefed up the numbers because of 9/11 and when I got out, they were scaling the military down. I was a psych major and did a post-back pre-med program while modeling on the side. That turned into more and more of a full-time thing. At that point, I thought, ‘I like this. I like traveling and meeting new people.’”