Navy SEAL killed in Iraq was IU graduate
Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.
By Bob Zaltsberg and Andy Graham
When Wil Fleming learned his Indiana University track and field teammate Charles Keating IV had become a Navy SEAL, he thought it was "one of the coolest things."
"I remember thinking that I would bet he had the coolest stories and would tell them in the coolest ways, with a lot of gestures and personality and that big smile," Fleming said Tuesday night. Earlier in the day, he had run across Keating's name while checking the national news.
“I was scrolling through my USA Today app and saw a Navy SEAL was killed in Iraq, and then it was, ‘Holy crap.’ Turned out it was the only Navy SEAL I knew."
Keating, who ran track and cross country at IU from 2004 to 2006, was killed by Islamic State militants Tuesday morning while he was embedded as an adviser to Kurdish troops as part of the U.S.-led coalition in northern Iraq.
“It’s just super-tragic," said Fleming, a Bloomington resident who graduated from Bloomington High School North before going on to IU. "In talking to others who knew him better, they said he loved nothing more than being a Navy SEAL. He was doing something he loved. I think a lot of people are broken up about it."
Fleming described Keating as "always the most outgoing, gregarious, funny guy. He had a really big smile, which we saw a lot."
Keating came to IU in a heralded distance running class that included twins Sean and John Jefferson.
Their cross country coach was Robert Chapman, now a professor of kinesiology at IU.
"When Charlie left IU to enlist and try to become a SEAL, I don't think it really surprised any of us," Chapman said in a statement issued Tuesday night by IU. "You could tell he was a guy who wanted to be the best and find out what he was made of, and serving as special operations forces for his country embodied that."
John Jefferson said he'll remember Keating as "an athlete, a teammate, a soldier, but most importantly a friend."
"What I will remember most about Charlie is his laugh, his goofy laugh," Jefferson said in an email. "A group of us, Charlie's teammates, have started putting pictures together for the memorial and we can't find an image where Charlie isn't smiling. That was Charlie; he would light up a room, and he was one of the guys you wanted to be around."
He said Keating "left college and everything that college has to offer" to enter an 18-month program to become a Navy SEAL.
"If you knew Charlie, today was a hard day, one of the worst I have experienced," he said. "But if Charlie could have written his own ending, I don't think Charlie would have wanted it any other way. Charlie was a real-life hero, and he died protecting us and our country."
Keating's father, Charles Keating III, had been an all-American swimmer at IU and competed for the U.S. Olympic team in Montreal.
Keating's grandfather was well-known for other reasons. Charles Keating Jr. was the main figure in a financial scandal in 1989 that resulted in five U.S. senators, called the Keating Five, being investigated. He was eventually indicted on charges of fraud and racketeering, for which he served time in prison.