On this fourth of July weekend, I'm not going to tell you how great America is, how much we kick ass, or how the red, white, and blue are God's favorite colors. Instead, I'm going to introduce you to 3 of my very good friends and tell you what they did on their 4th of July.Ben

This is Ben. We've been friends for a few years. He's known within my group of close friends as the clown, you could say. This guy's hilarious and easily one of my favorite friends to grab a drink with at the bar. One time, Ben wanted to go skiing with us but had never taken a single lesson or even tried on a pair of boots. After some serious deliberation, we ended up taking Ben along with us. That will forever be one of the best days on snow I've ever had. Today, Ben is stationed North of Baghdad in Iraq.
Joe is another comedian, though I don't think it's intentional. He's also that friend we all have that says he's going to do something and he does it. One day Joe and I were skiing through an opening day terrain park and he said to me, "I'm going to 270 that box." Joe had never 270ed anything and had only hit rails for a season. He busted his shit so badly on his first attempt, I thought he was done for the day. NOPE! He ran, and I mean ran, back up the hill and attempted 270 after 270 until finally, he nailed it and skied away cleanly with a huge smile on his face. Today, Joe is stationed in Hor Al Bash, Iraq.
Tony licking the ice sculpture before his weddingIf someone asked me what my good friend Tony is like, I'd show them this picture. I've known him since we were 6 and we grew up playing baseball together. His bachelor party is where we started the now infamous tradition of the groom-to-be having a WWE Wrestling belt on him at all times. At anytime during the night, someone can challenge him for the title with a drinking challenge that he is obligated to accept. He puked everywhere but he kept his title. He was married two years ago and was nice enough to include me in his wedding. When they announced the bridal party at the reception, as a joke, Tony had the DJ play the Stone Cold Steve Austin theme music. He told no one he was doing this. It drew some strange looks from his wife's side of the family but needless to say, it provided a bunch of laughs for the few in the crowd that knew the significance of the bachelor title belt. It'll go down in history as one of the best weddings I've ever attended. Today, Tony is currently on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. His friends and family, including his wife, have not heard from him in 3 weeks due to the dangerous nature of the mission he is on.
I'm not asking anyone to feel sorry for these guys, discuss the morality of the war, or point the finger at anyone. My friends chose their line of work, are serving their country with honor, and I'm just so extremely proud to say these guys are my friends.I woke up this morning and had a conversation with Joe via AIM for the first time in 3 months. Here's a small excerpt that gives me hope:Mike: hey buddyJoe: wuz up manMike: how are ya?Joe: considering the circumstances, im alrightJoe: how is summer? mine is hotMike: It's going well. where are you?Joe: hor al bash, iraqMike: jesus, i haven't talked to you in a few monthsJoe: yeah im north of baghdadMike: how is it going over there?Joe: i guess alright. today lots of iraqi kids armed with brooms, wheelbarrels and shovels went around town cleaning up...its kinda a big dealThanks Ben, Joe, and Tony for fighting the good fight so guys like me can post blog entries on a ski website.Happy 4th of July NS and if you get the chance, thank someone in the armed forces because those guys kick ass! -Rogge