Winston-Salem State University junior Keith Bryant has faced more adversities in his first 22 years than most people face in a lifetime.
When he was 13, an usual pain in his left ankle led to a diagnosis of stage three non-Hodgkin’s B-cell lymphoma. Bryant was given a 50-50 chance of even living through the chemotherapy treatments. For the first few weeks of the chemotherapy, Bryant was very sick and scared of dying.
“He was asking questions about death,” recalled his mother, Anita Humphries. “He was thinking he wasn’t going to live.”
But Bryant, ashamed of the anxiety he was causing his mother, changed his outlook and decided that cancer was no match for them. One day he just told his mother: “We can do this, momma!”
The chemo was a success and it shrank the tumor to the size of a dime and Bryant has been in remission for five years now. But, the illness managed to change other parts of his life. Prior to the cancer, Bryant said he considered himself to be a “bad boy” because he got in fights at school and didn’t care about grades.
“Then I realized ‘Hey, life is too short to be so bad,’” Bryant said. “So, I started focusing more on school.”
With that renewed effort, Bryant’s grade point average shot up from 2.4 to 3.6. Beyond being a better student, Bryant became a valuable football player at Starmount High School in Booneville his sophomore year. He persisted in playing football even after he broke his ankle in a scrimmage and doctors told him that if he broke it again, they would have to amputate from the ankle down.
He received a partial scholarship to Catawba College, but decided instead to attend Winston-Salem State to major in justice studies and minor in military science.
During his sophomore year, he was in a car accident that didn’t injure anymore. While crossing the road to get to his phone to dial 911, however, he was struck by an oncoming car, knocked unconscious and his left leg was broken.
Even that didn’t stop him for long. He wore a brace for a short period of time and then never wore it again. With a deep interest in the military, Bryant had tried to enlist during his sophomore year of high school. His recent bout with cancer made him medically unfit then and even his uncle, an ex-Army man, told him he couldn’t make it through basic training with all of the running.
Once again, Bryant started to prove everyone wrong. He became an active participant in ROTC at WSSU, taking on the program’s rigorous physical training. It all paid off. This summer, he was Cadet Keith Bryant in the Delta Company for the Leader’s Training Course at Fort Knox, Ken. The intense, four-week program is designed to be an introduction to Army life for motivated cadets headed into the Senior ROTC program.
Now, he has gone beyond expected performances, distinguishing himself as a guidon bearer during physical training runs. The guidon is a military standard that a company or platoon carries to signify their unit designation and corps affiliation. It is the guidon bearer who is responsible for motivating the entire platoon by running at the front of the column.
“In the morning, Bryant circles the whole platoon with the guidon and trie(s) to get them hyped up when they are getting tired,” said Sgt. Randon Harvey, a Delta Company drill sergeant.
Bryant scored a 263 out of a 300 on his physical fitness test. He said that even though he isn’t the best cadet at the leader’s Training Course, he tries to keep up.
“There are things that get to me,” Bryant said. “The road marches really hurt my ankle, but that’s what I expected. I refuse to quit.”
That attitude may finally pay off for Bryant. He is now waiting for a health waiver so that he can contact the Army about enlisting.