On a muggy Florida evening in 2008, I meet Iraq War veteran Forrest Fogarty in the Winghouse, a little bar-restaurant on the outskirts of Tampa, his favorite hangout. He told me on the phone I would recognize him by his skinhead. Sure enough, when I spot a white guy at a table by the door with a shaved head, white tank top and bulging muscles, I know it can only be him.
Over a plate of chicken wings, he tells me about his path into the white-power movement. "I was 14 when I decided I wanted to be a Nazi," he says. At his first high school, near Los Angeles, he was bullied by black and Latino kids. That's when he first heard Skrewdriver, a band he calls "the godfather of the white power movement." "I became obsessed," he says. He had an image from one of Skrewdriver's album covers — a Viking carrying a staff, an icon among white nationalists — tattooed on his left forearm. Soon after he had another white power symbol, a Celtic cross, emblazoned on his stomach.
At 15, Fogarty moved with his dad to Tampa, where he started picking fights with groups of black kids at his new high school. "On the first day, this bunch of niggers, they thought I was a racist, so they asked, 'Are you in the KKK?'" he tells me. "I said, 'Yeah,' and it was on." Soon enough, he was expelled.
For the next six years, Fogarty flitted from landscaping job to construction job, neither of which he'd ever wanted to do. "I was just drinking and fighting," he says. He started his own Nazi rock group, Attack, and made friends in the National Alliance, at the time the biggest neo-Nazi group in the country. It has called for a "a long-term eugenics program involving at least the entire populations of Europe and America."
But the military ran in Fogarty's family. His grandfather had served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and his dad had been a Marine in Vietnam. At 22, Fogarty resolved to follow in their footsteps. "I wanted to serve my country," he says.
Army regulations prohibit soldiers from participating in racist groups, and recruiters are instructed to keep an eye out for suspicious tattoos. Before signing on the dotted line, enlistees are required to explain any tattoos. At a Tampa recruitment office, though, Fogarty sailed right through the signup process. "They just told me to write an explanation of each tattoo, and I made up some stuff, and that was that," he says. Soon he was posted to Fort Stewart in Georgia, where he became part of the 3rd Infantry Division.
Fogarty's ex-girlfriend, intent on destroying his new military career, sent a dossier of photographs to Fort Stewart. The photos showed Fogarty attending white supremacist rallies and performing with his band, Attack. "They hauled me before some sort of committee and showed me the pictures," Fogarty says. "I just denied them and said my girlfriend was a spiteful bitch." He adds: "They knew what I was about. But they let it go because I'm a great soldier."
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