At Tactical Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, the setting sun casted rays of rose gold over the mountains, and yet, with the last strands of light, the triple digit heat of the day hung in the still July air.
The pinkish rays of light were met by red cast in the arc of a bean bag toss, white in basketball shots or blue in the quick, deliberate movement of a desperate attempt to dodge a water balloon July 4, 2018.
All of the colors of the U.S. flag came from glow stick bracelets and necklaces worn by Soldiers with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team "Raiders," 4th Infantry Division, who, despite being thousands of miles from American soil, were determined to celebrate the Fourth of July in the most American way possible.
Celebrations began at 6 a.m. the morning of July 4 with a CrossFit competition hosted by the brigade chaplain. Soldiers moved through a series of timed fitness challenges including power cleans, pushups and a sand bag sprint.
"The CrossFit Challenge for the Fourth of July was a great event for all of Gamberi because it set the tone for the entire day," said Maj. Nathan McClean, chaplain, 1st SBCT. "Soldiers, civilians and DOD contractors were all a part of a grueling competition … symbolic of Raider Brigade Soldiers."
Festivities continued later into the evening with a cake cutting by Col. Monté Rone, commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Charles W. Tennant, both with 1st SBCT.
"This celebration isn't just for those who wear the U.S. Army patch, the joint service patch or one of our coalition partners, it is for everyone who makes up the entire (Train, Advise and Assist Command-East) team," said Rone.
The dining facility prepared a traditional American cookout for Soldiers with hot dogs, hamburgers, corn dogs and other American classics, complete with ice cold sodas and ice cream.
Later, the festivities kicked off with corn hole, basketball and a water balloon fight. All the action set to the tune of classic American rock.
"It was a great break from the day-to-day," said Sgt. Deanna Stevens, supply sergeant and property book NCO, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st SBCT. "For a second you could forget you were in Afghanistan--celebrating with the other Soldiers and civilians working on (Tactical Base) Gamberi, it felt like I was back in America."