Washington, D.C.

Their Love Language? Acts of Service to Others 

Thomas Brown

A veteran couple finds the perfect fit while volunteering with Team Rubicon—and doing something for people they’ll never meet.

“We do everything together,” says Rusty Bittle, a U.S. Army veteran and retired Pentagon contractor, of his marriage to Catherine, also a retired Pentagon contractor and a U.S. Air Force veteran. “Whether it’s vacation or taking care of our parents. We support each other, and there’s very little we do apart.” That togetherness included a recent cold January day, which the two Team Rubicon Greyshirts spent in Washington, D.C., sharing their love for acts of service to others at an underresourced public high school in need of refurbishing.

The only public high school in D.C.’s 8th Ward, Anacostia High has seen better days. Ward 8 is known as a low-income community with sparse public services and poorly provisioned infrastructure, and the high school reflects that negligence as well. Years of accumulated damage and collected refuse have left the school, an old and beautiful building in a historic part of the city, needing help to fulfill its noble purpose. On Martin Luther King Day, the Bittles joined nearly 100 other volunteers at Anacostia High to beautify the school, help expand educational programs, and enhance the educational experience of teenagers in the neighborhood.  

The MLK Day service project was the couple’s first time deploying with Team Rubicon together, and they fit right in. “We just enjoy being with people that we can connect with,” said Catherine, “and everyone is focused on getting the job done and helping each other.” Rusty and Catherine joined other Greyshirts, community members, government officials, volunteers from other nonprofits, and university students to serve Anacostia High that day. Among the Greyshirts was another first-time Team Rubicon volunteer, Julie Hoffman, Catherine’s mother. 

From left to right, Rusty Bittle, Julie Hoffman, and Catherine Bittle serve at Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C.

“This was just a perfect fit for us,” said Catherine, “for mom, it’s like divine providence.” Julie has been living with her daughter and son-in-law for just more than a year, moving across the country after her husband died in late 2022. Since the move, she’d been in search of meaning, or at least something to keep her active. “She says she wants to have a purpose,” explained Catherine, reflecting on her mother’s own interest in performing acts of service to others. “This gives her a purpose: to help others.” 

A purpose shared by Rusty and Catherine and most Greyshirts—and a mission of Team Rubicon—is to serve vulnerable communities. “This country has given us so much,” said Rusty, “we love this country, and now it’s time to give back.” 

Painting rooms, removing broken ceiling tiles, and clearing refuse from hallways and classrooms, Rusty, Catherine, and Julie were put to work all over the school. Julie was in love, eagerly performing whatever task she was asked and basking in the good feelings of such acts of service to others. “This enables her to come out of her shell,” said Catherine. “And to do it with her daughter and son-in-law, she was smiling and busy and helping. Doing whatever she could do.” 

Team Rubicon operations and service projects are, in every case, an opportunity for people who want to make a difference simply for the sake of serving others. It’s an attitude that the Bittle family encapsulated on that wintery Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the nation’s capital city. “It’s a love of service,” explained Rusty, “We’re doing something for people we’ll never meet, for kids who really can never thank us.”  

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