The Fourth of July
BY Chris Fogt
We all have many reasons why we enjoy the Fourth of July. As a child I loved the 4th because we were out of school, it was summertime, the food was delicious, and most of all because I got to stay up late and watch fireworks. I also noticed and enjoyed how friendly and happy everyone was to one other, even though I didn’t fully understand why. As I have grown older, I have continued to find more and more reasons to celebrate as I gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for this great country, and the liberties we all enjoy. I would like to share an experience I had on July 4th two years ago when I returned from a deployment to Iraq. Before I do that, I need to give you a little background on myself.
When I was young I loved to do two things; play sports and run around in the woods with my friends building forts and playing “war.” Much of this can be attributed to the fact that my father was a collegiate athlete and also an officer in the Army. Because of this, I always dreamed of representing America as an athlete or as a member of the Armed Forces. Fortunately for me, I have had the unique opportunity to do both. Through the Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) I have been able to pursue sport while also being a member of the armed services.
After competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics as a member of the USA Bobsled team, I had the opportunity to deploy to Iraq for a year. I served alongside America’s finest in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. As my tour came to an end, I flew back home and landed on the 4th of July in 2011. (Photo on left: The group in Iraq about to head "outside the wire" to a key leader engagement. The bulk of the group are members of the Idaho National Guard who made up our personal security detail.)
I could literally smell the freedom when I touched down in the United States (anyone who has spent a significant amount of time out of America knows exactly what I’m talking about). I can’t think of a better day to be coming home from a deployment than on the 4th of July. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride as I walked toward the baggage claim in my ACUs (Army Combat Uniform). I still remember the throngs of people hurrying around the terminal, talking excitedly about their 4th of July plans. I was elated to see how happy and relaxed most people were. I didn’t tell anyone other than my parents I was coming home, so they were the only ones waiting for me at baggage claim. I gave them two big hugs and we drove towards home to eat some good old fashioned American BBQ.
That evening as I waited around with my parents for the fireworks show, I couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast between where I had come from and my new surroundings. There were kids everywhere, running around and laughing. Adults lounging close by talking while country/patriotic music played in the background. Everyone had a smile on their face and looked like they didn’t have a care in the world. People moved from group to group, offering food, drinks and handshakes. There were no military vehicles to be seen anywhere (although being in Utah, there are a few trucks that I’m sure rival our military vehicles in size). There were no T-walls or “duck and cover” bunkers to run to in case of incoming mortar attacks. There were no guards with weapons manning any checkpoints or towers. I didn’t even have a weapon strapped to my waist. It struck me as very odd that in the absence of all of those things I had relied on to keep me safe, I now felt safer than any other time in the last 12 months in Iraq. I do not think I have ever loved or appreciated America more in my life than in that moment. (Photo above: T-walls are placed around housing trailers, dining facilites, unit headquarters and offices so that explosions and shrapnel from incoming rockets/mortars cause minimal damage.)
As I watched the fireworks, with the rockets’ red glare and the bombs bursting in air, I reflected on this and how it truly makes America great. We have people of every race and background, with different religious and political views, but we all come together and live safely in harmony. When we disagree with someone, we can still work with them for the greater good of the country without physical violence or the threat of death. I know America is not perfect and I am not oblivious to the fact that there are a few bad people in our country engaging in tragic events against innocent people. Yet, at the end of the day, after these terrible things happen, we are all witnesses to the true strength of Americans as we rejoin hands to build stronger communities and a more united nation. This is what makes America great and will continue to do so as long as we all strive do our part.
The firework show came to an end as they played “Proud to be an American” over the loudspeakers.
And I’m proud to be an American,
Where at least I know I’m free
And I wont forget the men who died,
Who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up,
Next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.
Christopher S. Fogt
Captain, United States Army
Chris Fogt began the sport of bobsled in 2007 after attending a camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. Since then he has pushed for drivers on the America's Cup and World Cup circuits. Fogt graduated from Utah Valley University with a degree in Business Management. While at Utah Valley he ran track and field where he was team Captain for two years, and set an indoor school record in the 100-meter sprint (10.53), and in the 60-meter dash (6.92). He also completed ROTC and was commissioned into the army as a 2nd LT in the Military Intelligence branch. He is currently a member of the World Class Athlete Program. Fogt spent a one year deployment in Iraq immediately following the 2010 Vancouver Games, and made a strong comeback to the sport to make a bid for the 2014 team.
*Athlete blog entries are the sole opinion of each individual author and may not be representative of the USBSF or its athletes.