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Haskell Student Athletes Use Military Experience to Excel in Sports

Haskell Student Athletes Use Military Experience to Excel in Sports

The shrapnel in PFC Chris Turley’s knee is a constant reminder that he answered the warrior’s call with honor, earning both the U.S. Army Commendation Medal and a Purple Heart for his tour as an Army radio operator for a scout team in Afghanistan.

The discipline E5 Ron Rousseau learned serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (2011-12) gave him the confidence and discipline needed to finish up his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in only three years. He has been accepted into the University of Idaho College of Law.

And E2 Keli Warrior, who was named the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference women’s basketball freshman of the year, currently serves in the Army National Guard.

These three Haskell Indian Nations University student athletes are using their military experience to do great things in the classroom and on the athletic field. “I sent an e-mail to coach [Chad] Kills Crow saying I’m currently in Afghanistan and I want to play [basketball] at Haskell. He called me on an internet phone and said, ‘I appreciate your offer, but you’re the wrong kind of Indian,’” Rousseau said with a laugh.

Haskell Indian Nations University graduate Ron Rousseau served a tour in Afghanistan.(Courtesy of Ron Rousseau)

“I guess he thought I was a Middle Eastern Indian or something. That’s one of the highlights. Coach and I still laugh about that. They welcomed me with open arms and I loved my experience here.”

Once they sorted out that the 6-foot-8, 225-pound center from Ridgeview, South Dakota, was Cheyenne River Sioux, Kills Crow put the big Lakota to good use. Rousseau averaged a double-double this past season, including 18 rebounds and 11 points in a 106-99 victory over Arkansas’ Central Baptist.

“When I was in Afghanistan, I don’t know if it was a scared feeling or a proud feeling, but I knew what my job was,” said Rousseau, who is a seventh generation descendant of Hunkpapa leader Gall. “The military showed me to never give up, to keep running the extra mile. Before the military, I never knew I could do a five-mile run with a 30-pound pack.”

Rousseau and his mother Anne LeCompte will be in the same graduating class in May. He will go to Officer’s Candidate school this summer and move his family to Moscow, Idaho, next fall where he will enter law school.

Doctors told Turley he would never run again after taking shrapnel from an RPG round during Operation Enduring Freedom. He served as a radio operator for a scout platoon in Southern Zerok. The scout team initiated an ambush and took heavy return fire. As the enemy attempted to surround his position, he had five RPG’s impact within seven meters and took shrapnel to his leg.

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Courtesy of Chris Turley

PFC Chris Turley

The Osage Nation tribal member returned fire and helped keep the enemy force from overrunning their position, earning the Commendation Medal with a stamp of valor.

Turley used that same courage under fire in his rehabilitation and hopes to play wide receiver for the Fighting Indian football team next fall. “To be able to step up and serve is the greatest calling one can answer on behalf of his People, as well as the nation,” said Turley, who was stationed with the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, before deployment. “After I got hit, I got blown off the side of a mountain about 15-20 meters down the hill. My platoon sergeant [Williams Fleck] came running down after me. He told me to keep firing while he drug me up by the back of my kit. He basically saved my life because I couldn’t use my leg.”

In the rehabilitation process that followed, Turley went from wheelchair to crutches to physical therapy. He overcame the doctors prognosis. “I kept that in the back of my mind the whole time,” said Turley, whose goal is to coach basketball and football, as well as, pursue officer’s training through the ROTC program at Kansas University.

He met with Haskell football coach Jimmy Snyder during spring ball and Snyder will put the 26-year-old to work next fall.

Originally from Oklahoma, Warrior moved to the Winnebago Reservation in Nebraska when she was in high school. She enlisted in the Army out of high school and serves on weekends with the National Guard. The discipline she learned through her military training has carried over to the basketball floor. The Southern Ponca tribal member averaged 16.5 points a game with five rebounds. She had a big night against Southwestern (Kansas) this past season, scoring 25 points and came down with an impressive 15 rebounds.

Courtesy Haskell University

Kelli Warrior

“I’ve always been comfortable with who I am, but the military taught me to be a leader,” she said. “You have to stand up and trust your teammates. My coach and my sergeant say the same thing about trust. The Army taught me how to grow up and be a soldier and that’s what I see with basketball and college. It’s not high school in a protective environment anymore. It’s time to step up.”