Spc. Benard Keter is representing a lot of different things when he takes to the Olympics later this month. The soldier-athlete is part of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, and he doesn’t want to let either of them down with a poor showing in Tokyo.
“My goal [at the Olympics] is…don’t let them down,” Keter told Fox News. “I’ll be doing this for the United States, doing it for the Army, doing it for myself, doing it for my family.”
Keter loves the United States but he wasn’t born here. He’s from Kenya, but a Texas Tech coach spotted his talent and recruited him to a small Kansas school. He later graduated from Texas Tech.
He admitted that it was a culture shock at first, but he quickly learned self-reliance and resilience.
“Everything was different,” Keter said of the two countries. “Coming here, you figure out, like, you have your washer and dryer inside the house. You have everything. … I had to learn how to use the shower, I had to learn how to do everything, and you know, everybody was different.”
That included his rigorous training. He didn’t have family in the stands or a shoulder to cry on when it all became too much. He had to make it on his own.
“When I came, I had no relatives. I had nobody to say, ‘Hey, it’s hard here.’ … It wasn’t like that,” he said. “So I was like, I have to pick myself up and do everything I can. Go to class. If I had any issues, I would go to my coach.”
Everything Changed When He Joined the Army
It was almost a fluke that he ended up in the U.S. Army. He was recruited in 2016 because he spoke English and Swahili, his native language. But once he joined, he found his family.
“Being in the Army is a life-changing experience. You have your chain of command, and you have your teammates. You have soldiers in the platoon, and you have soldiers in the company. It’s a great family to be in,” he said.
A lot of those adopted family members will be cheering him on when he runs in the Men’s 3000-meter steeplechase on July 30 at the Olympics.
“There are a lot of people who root for you,” Keter said. “When I made the team – even my drill sergeant from Basic Training texted me and was like, ‘Hey, I see you’re going to the Olympics.’ … Everybody in my neighborhood knew I was going to the Olympics.”
But he knows he’ll have a lot on his shoulders when he takes to the starting block.
“It’s a lot of weight I’ll be carrying going there,” he said. “…When I’m there, it’s going to be just for me. It’s going to be for the nation. It’s for the Army. It will be cool if I get the medal.”