S. Korea-based soldiers enjoy 'once-in-a-lifetime' Olympics experience
By MARCUS FICHTL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 15, 2018
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Many American troops and their families on the Korean Peninsula are taking a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to attend the Winter Olympics this month.
Dozens of military personnel lined the luge track in Pyeongchang Tuesday to cheer on Olympian and Army Sgt. Emily Sweeney as she zoomed down the ice.
The gutsy slider crashed out of medal contention in spectacular fashion on her final run but managed to walk off the track while her comrades cheered: “Go Emily!” and “Go Sgt. Sweeney!”
Most of the troops watching the luge were from Camp Humphreys, the Eighth Army’s sprawling new home south of Seoul. They got a free trip to the games with the help of a donation from the Association of the U.S. Army.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I don’t think I’ll ever be around a future Olympics,” said Spc. Joshua Dorsey, 25, of Indianapolis, who made the trek to Pyeongchang with co-workers from the Eighth Army motor pool.
Spc. Philip Brown took a selfie in front of the luge track with a competitor in the background, barreling down the ice at 80 mph.
“I don’t really leave post, so this was a good experience to get out and go do something,” said the 23-year-old from Massachusetts.
The engineer, who normally trains to counter North Korean aggression, was hopeful but skeptical of the North’s involvement, proudly pronouncing where his loyalties lie.
“I’m a soldier; I stand for my country,” Brown said.
Before the race the troops explored the Olympic village, checked out virtual-reality versions of some of the events and took more photos with Korean pop stars who made their virtual likenesses available to visitors.
As they walked around, local kids swarmed the troops asking who they were and where they came from.
Michele Carkhuff — there with her soldier husband and sported Team USA gear — was a popular target for local photographers. The 38-year-old Honolulu native was impressed by unification flags at the event that depict a blue Korean Peninsula against a white background.
“We saw the unification flag — that stood out as poignant moment for us,” Carkhuff said. “It was like, ‘Wow they’re coming together for something greater than their differences.’ That was surreal for us.”