The University of Connecticut community is mourning the loss of a national hero.
Alumnus and U.S. Navy Seal, Kyle Milliken, was killed during an operation in Somalia.
Milliken went to UConn from his small hometown in Maine, wanting to run track. He wasn't highly recruited and during his time with Track and Field Coach Greg Roy, it was a rocky road.
“At times it was frustrating for him, I was tough on him, it was tough on him, but he took a licking and kept on ticking,” Roy said.
In 32 years of coaching, Roy has mentored hundreds of athletes. Not many come with the attitude and character of Kyle Milliken.
“He was tough. He persevered, he had a commitment, he had loyalty and integrity and he was honest to the sport,” Roy said.
Coach Roy would tell incoming classes Kyle’s story of never quitting and how he went on to become an American hero.
“Kyle talked all the time about how his preparation and what he went through to become a member of the track and field program here did prepare him to become a SEAL,” Roy said.
Each year, Milliken’s legend grew.
“It's kind of hard for it not to stick with us. We all would look up to someone like that,” said Kyle Brackman, who is on the UConn Track and Field team.
Milliken was on a mission against terrorist group Al-Shabad in Somalia.
It's a ruthless organization known for torturing and kidnapping the Somalian people. Kyle, a 38-year-old father of two, was killed when he came under fire while dropping off soldiers.
He was the first American service member killed in combat there since 1993.
On Monday, the UConn team was preparing for a big conference meet in Houston, and as they run the same track as Kyle did 15 years ago, the UConn legend is on their minds and in their hearts.
“He's as much here today as he was 15 years ago,” Roy said.
“He believed what he could do what he did and if you can believe you can do it just go ahead because you just got to be tough,” Brackman said.
Next week, after the tournament, coach Roy will go to Virginia for a memorial service.
There, he plans on delivering handwritten notes from members of the team to Kyle’s family, explaining just how much of an inspiration he was.
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