OKLAHOMA CITY — During Wednesday’s chapel service on the University of Oklahoma Christian campus, there was a poignant moment.
OC journalism professor Philip Patterson was talking about Kyle Seitsinger, who was one of his students a decade or so ago. Seitsinger would sit in a seat during a service in Hardeman Auditorium, which was nearly filled to capacity.
In November 2003, 12 months shy of graduating with a dual major in journalism and Spanish, the Edmond, Okla., resident was called into active duty, and the sergeant was assigned to the 486th Civil Affairs Battalion, U.S. Army Reserve, Broken Arrow.
In Afghanistan, Seitsinger would go to villages and gain the trust of locals to find out whether any abandoned weapons were around. On Jan. 29, 2004, west of Ghazni, the 29-year-old was in a hut where Russian munitions were being disarmed when one soldier stepped on a device, igniting an explosion.
“I got a call at about two in the morning, and I was told Kyle was dead,” Patterson said.
At the time, many Americans were distracted by the Super Bowl, played Feb. 1 that year. As news of the deaths of the soldiers spread, Hardeman Auditorium was filled with mourning members of the OC community, Patterson said.
Patterson likened Seitsinger’s sacrifice 10 years ago to Jesus’ teaching: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13 ESV).
“On the 10th anniversary, it’s fitting to pause and recall someone who sat here and had the courage to say, ‘I’ll go if called,’” Patterson said as he stood at the podium, looking out into the auditorium.
Three OC students with military service in their background joined OC President John deSteiguer and Kyle’s father, Dan Seitsinger, at the podium.
DeSteiguer read a certificate regarding Kyle’s qualifications as a journalism student, which included his excellent work with The Talon, OC’s student-run newspaper, his time with a faith-based journalism institute in Washington, D.C., his goal of being a photojournalist, his six-plus years of service in the U.S. Marines Corps and his service in the Army Reserves.
Based on these things, OC presented Kyle’s father with a journalism degree honoring his son, deSteiguer said. As Dan Seitsinger received the certificate, the audience applauded vigorously.
After the ceremony, Seitsinger said he was moved by the ceremony, the gesture and the amount of effort that went into it.
“It’s a special event for me,” he said. “I’m just pleased to see recognition given to Kyle. Kyle felt very comfortable here. He loved it here. And they helped him develop not just as a student, but as a person. OC will always have a special place in my heart and in my mind.”
Seitsinger said journalism gave Kyle, who was naturally curious about the world, opportunities to meet people and to report on happenings. Kyle had a natural talent for reporting, Seitsinger said.
In May 1993, Kyle graduated from Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Mo. In December of that year, he joined the Marine Corps. He guarded U.S. embassies in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Moscow. At each of his stops, men of his company gave spontaneous awards to him for his leadership style.
Seitsinger was also an expert marksman and rifle instructor at Camp Pendleton. He was named “Top Gun” at his embassy school graduation in Quantico, Va.
After Seitsinger enrolled in OC during the fall of 2000, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves.