Kyle Butler is passionate about running. In 2012 he found himself in the war-ravaged country of Afghanistan, under threat of roadside bombs and the possibility of death all around him. And yet, when not in uniform with a gun at his side, he was running, regularly an average of 50 miles a week. Despite the impressive distances, he was getting nowhere – it was like he was just running in place, a hamster unable to escape its wheel.
And during those quiet, solitary moments on the treadmill, Butler had just one thought. I just need that one shot. That one shot at redemption.
In high school, current FSC cross-country runner Kyle Butler was a part of three cross-country state championships. As he entered college in 2007 at Florida Atlantic University, he put in Herculean effort towards his running and progressing towards getting to nationals, but his efforts weren’t replicated in the classroom. He had lost interest, not showing up to classes and feeling unattached to the school. In the Fall 2009 school year, his sophomore year of college, he finally dropped out, as the hill became too high for even this runner to run.
He was lost. He knew he had to change something. Butler decided the change would come in the Army as he left his university and filled out a notification of interest form on GoArmy.com. In December 2009, he was accepted into the Army and he filled out his three-year, 30-week contract. He believed that this was the change he needed.
During his nearly three years before deployment to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Walton in Afghanistan, Butler served in the military intelligence. He entered an Ultimate Frisbee club because he felt that, as an athlete, it would be interesting. Members of the club invited him to their bible study meetings and this was where he began to understand who Jesus was. He had begun to see a new light, perhaps a light that would lead to his salvation and redemption.
He was then transferred to American base FOB Walton in Kandahar, Afghanistan where he would live for six months and provide surveillance reports and examine incoming vehicles at the security checkpoints. Butler’s contract with the Army was nearing its end. Despite his newfound relationship with God and Jesus Christ, the young man still couldn’t run up the hill.
Depression had settled in where hope used to reside. Loneliness and negativity over whether he would even make it out alive began to plague his mind. He and his girlfriend ended their relationship due to personal differences. He assumed his competitive running career was over and his chance for a degree was gone. However, one thing still kept the dream alive. There was a treadmill inside the base where Butler was stationed. Butler began to run six to ten miles daily after his twelve-hour shift. There was nothing else to do. During his shifts, explosions often went off near his base, keeping the air tense as if the cold scythe of the Reaper was always on his back. But on the treadmill he was free from the troubles of his world. He continued to run all the way until May 2013 when he returned home from his deployment in Afghanistan and left the military with honorable discharge in September after fulfilling his contract. Thanks to the advice of a friend and the knowledge of Florida Southern’s cross country coach, Ben Martucci, Butler was able to get back into college and back into running towards his dream of redemption. [pullquote]He was lost. He knew he had to change something.[/pullquote]
Butler believes that not everybody is given a second shot and that it is a blessing that he has this chance today to achieve his dream of running while earning a degree.
The thin young man in a casual t-shirt and shorts fidgeted around when talking about his experiences, as if he was nervous about something. However, he became more energetic and passionate when speaking about his teammates, his coach and the ROTC program.
“I’m willing to bleed for the guys next to me,” he said. He just wants to make them and his parents proud for supporting him even when he was flunking out of school or struggling in life.
LaRonde believes that Butler was the one who supported himself and made it here with his own perseverance. “He had the personal growth and he came up with the personal drive at some point in his military career before he came to this program,” LaRonde declared. “Kyle is a great example of what we were looking for in this ROTC program.”
His teammate and roommate, Jon Moses, said that he enforces a study hall penalty where the later you are the more push-ups you had to do. Moses also speaks favorably about how Butler shows his maturity by showing younger members of the team the correct form for running and some of the knowledge he has amassed over the years as the son of a high school cross-country coach.
“We’ve got five good runners this year, they’re all in the front pack, and Kyle’s definitely one of them,” Moses said. “It’s because he’s a workhorse. He put in almost a thousand miles this summer.”