“If you don’t get a long life, make sure you have an impactful life.”
This quote came years ago from a school principal near the Click & Pledge Foundation studio in southwest Virginia, after a former student of his met a sudden and tragic death at 27.
Marla Ruzicka was only one year older than that when she was also killed suddenly by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2005. And just like the above student, she fulfilled this call to impact in the most profound and permanent way.
After 9/11, Marla took it on herself to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan to engage in a fight of her own. She went door to door counting civilian deaths and injuries happening in the unfolding conflict. Marla then brought this evidence back to the American halls of power, getting unprecedented acknowledgement and assistance for these civilians.
She founded an organization called CIVIC, which at the time stood for Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. Up until her death, it was basically a one-woman effort.
For Marla, compassion wasn’t just a nice buzz word or a fleeting feeling of sympathy from afar. It was a force so deep in her soul that it moved her halfway across the world at 25 to see, hear and touch her fellow human beings who were vulnerable and needed their voices to be heard. It ultimately cost her own life.
CIVIC, now the Center for Civilians in Conflict, currently employs more than 100 people who work with governments, armed actors and civilians in 11 countries. The CIVIC motto is “Recognize. Prevent. Protect. Amend.”
Marla literally saved lives and ensured that lives will be saved for years to come. Oh, to imagine what more she could have accomplished if given more time. But what she did with the time she was given is unmatched by most, its impact unmeasured.
Her compassion protected and empowered. She is the true definition of an advocate. May we all be so bold.