By Lisa Ferdinando, ARNEWSApril 7, 2014
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 7, 2014) -- When the president and first lady honored members of Team USA last week, the packed East Room included a special group: elite athletes who also serve the nation in the Army.
The Soldiers with the Army's World Class Athlete Program say they were grateful for the opportunity to visit the White House, April 3, and meet their commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama.
"It's a great honor to be here to be invited here and for him to take the time out his day," said Capt. Christopher Fogt, who brought home bronze in the four-man bobsled completion from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
"I joined the Army before I started bobsledding, and the Army's World Class Athlete Program is a great chance to represent what we love, the Stars and Stripes, through sport and service, so it's a great honor to wear both of those hats," he said.
The president and first lady honored the service of those in the military, and paid tribute to the dedication and tremendous accomplishments of Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
"You guys have done a great job, and what an extraordinary achievement it is for all of you to have represented the United States of America at our Olympic and Paralympic Games," Obama said.
The first lady talked about the wounded warrior athletes, specifically Lt. Cdr. Dan Cnossen, a Navy SEAL who lost both legs in an improvised explosive device blast in Afghanistan, in 2009.
"In Sochi, Dan inspired us all again by competing in the 15K biathlon and the 1 kilometer sitting cross-country sprint," she said. "Dan has come a long way in the four years that we met, and I know that his story and the stories of all our Olympians and Paralympians are nowhere near finished."
For Sgt. Justin Olsen, on the bobsled, this was his second Olympics, but his first in the dual capacity of Olympian and service member.
Being both a Soldier and an athlete is hard work, but it is an honor to represent the United States in the Olympics and serve the nation in the Army, he said.
It was a great privilege to be at the White House, he said.
"We got to shake the president's hands. It was personal and it felt awesome," he said. "To have the opportunity to meet him one-on-one is an honor."
Sgt. Matthew Mortensen, a luger, was busy posting his Washington, D.C., adventures on social media. It is almost certain he and the other Army athletes will win any future coin challenge.
"Anyone want to challenge!!!??? Eat it up boys!!" he wrote in a post showing the challenge coin he received from President Obama.
The Soldier-athletes and other members of Team USA were given the VIP treatment while in the nation's capital. In addition to their White House meeting, they also attended a celebratory reception and a live taping of the Best of U.S. Awards Show honoring outstanding U.S. performances from the Sochi games.
The other Army athletes who competed on the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Games in Sochi were Staff Sgt. Jen Lee, who won gold on the sled hockey Paralympic team; Sgt. Nicholas Cunningham on bobsled; Sgt. Preston Griffall on luge; and Sgt. Dallas Robinson on bobsled.
(For more ARNEWS stories, visit www.army.mil/ARNEWS, or Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArmyNewsService, or Twitter @ArmyNewsService)