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SALT LAKE CITY — An Army cadet at West Point was recently honored with a prestigious award for admirable qualities, some of which he says he developed as a Mormon missionary.
Raaqim “Rocky” Rispress, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from South Carolina, was one of two cadets who received the Lt. Gen. Harold “Hal” Moore Warrior Athlete of Excellence Award on Nov. 8.
Rispress, a flanker on the Army men’s rugby team, was selected for his dedication, mental toughness, perseverance, winning spirit and humility, qualities he said he developed while serving as a Mormon missionary in Mozambique.
“I’m extremely fortunate,” Rispress said in a phone interview with the Deseret News. “I can attribute some of those Hal Moore values, humility, mental toughness, to those two years. The mission was difficult and rewarding. But nothing worth doing is easy.”
The annual award is presented to the top male and female athlete who best exemplify the tenets of the warrior ethos and values of Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, who demonstrated leadership and heroism during his service in the Vietnam War and military career. Actor Mel Gibson portrayed Moore in the 2002 film, “We Were Soldiers.”
Rispress was surprised and deeply honored to receive the award, he said.
“To receive an award named after him (Moore) is truly humbling because of his legacy and what that entails,” Rispress said. “The fact that I was chosen is pretty awesome.”
The mechanical engineering major was drawn to West Point in 2012 because his father served in the military and he enjoyed attending a soccer camp there during his high school years. He came to Army hoping to make the soccer team but things didn’t work out. He then tried out for the rugby team and made the squad.
Rispress stepped away to serve his mission from 2014 to 2016 and has appreciated his return to the rugby team, where he loves the spirit of camaraderie he feels with his teammates, despite their different backgrounds.
“It’s been a good experience with rugby. The highlight is being able to interact with teammates, an awesome group of guys. It’s no secret that I am an (LDS Church) member and my standards are a little different, but one, they have accepted me for who I am, and two, it’s a great group of guys,” said Rispress, a member of his LDS ward’s elders quorum presidency. “My favorite part is being surrounded by the caliber of people they are. They want to achieve great things through hard work. I want to add to that culture.”
With his junior rugby season behind him, Rispress will now put his heart and soul into cheering on the Black Knights in this weekend’s Army-Navy game.
“We are pretty excited over here,” Rispress said. “I think we stand a pretty good chance of winning. I will be there.”