TAHLEQUAH – When Kryistal Sanders first saw the photos of Northeastern State University Hall of Fame winners posted on the walls in the University Center as a freshman in 2005, she knew those students were being honored for outstanding accomplishments.
Now four years later, the ROTC cadet battalion commander’s photo will join the distinguished group of NSU alumni in a place of honor in the Hall of Fame. For Sanders, who graduates from NSU and will be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army on May 16, it is one of many awards she has received while a student at Northeastern.
“The Hall of Fame is among the biggest and best awards I have ever received. I didn’t expect to make the Hall of Fame,” said Sanders. “You know, you walk down the second floor hallway of the UC and you see all the pictures and you’re like ‘wow that would be such an honor to have my picture up there and be remembered for the contributions I’ve made to the community and the campus.’”
Sanders was the first female cadet in the NSU ROTC program to receive the Master Sergeant Beck Superior Cadet Pistol Award, a distinction presented to the top cadet in the ROTC program.
“I received the MSG Beck Superior Cadet Pistol Award the same day I was inducted into the Hall of Fame. They had an alumni dinner, with all of the seniors and alumni who have gone through the ROTC program and went on to serve in the military,” said Sanders. “At the end, I was presented with the award, which was a Remington pistol. It is not only nice to be awarded a pistol, but to be presented along with veterans who have been overseas and given their life to fight for our country.”
The Foyil native has also won national awards, such as the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2005, Who’s Who Among American College Students in 2008 and Distinguished Military Graduate in 2009.
“I have high standards for myself, but making the Hall of Fame and receiving the national awards that I have was kind of a surprise,” said Sanders. “Of course that was my goal, to win the highest awards that I could. That’s how I like to aim my objectives.”
While in college, Sanders has been extremely active in ROTC. She wanted to be a part of the program before even applying for college.
“My whole family is military, my grandparents, my parents actually met in the military,” said Sanders. “I was just looking for scholarships. In high school, I was very athletic, so in addition to athletic scholarships, I applied for an ROTC scholarship and got it.”
As the cadet battalion commander for ROTC, Sanders has worked closely with Major Michael Higgins, director of the NSU’s Department of Military Science or ROTC. Higgins has taught her in class as well as worked with her outside of class.
“Kryistal’s performance in class has been what I expected from all of my cadets. It’s the rest of the job she does that makes it a good experience to be around her,” said Higgins. “For me, her greatest impact has been outside the classroom and taking care of other business around the program.”
Sanders has not only held many leadership positions in ROTC, but is also president of Delta Mu Delta Business Honor Society.
“In June, I’ll start my training, and in December I will be at my first duty station in Hawaii,” said Sanders. “I will be a lieutenant as soon as I graduate.”
During the past four years, Sanders has accomplished much, and hopes to stay in contact with those she met at NSU.
“The biggest impact on me has been through ROTC. That’s why I came here, why I am graduating with a job, and why I am the leader I am today,” said Sanders. “It’s also like a family. I hope to stay connected as an alumnus, but I know I will be connected with the people in this program forever.”