Note-As we approach the 10th anniversary of the so-called "Phoenix Lights" of March 13, 1997, the following is a continuation of a series of interviews/articles with and by direct eye witnesses of this monumental event.
Although many who witnessed this huge "V-shaped craft" have come forward, there are a great deal more who haven't; research concerning this case is ongoing to this day, and it is our hope by highlighting the event(s) and the individuals who witnessed it, more people will come forward and share their experiences. Comments are always welcome, and if requested confidentiality will be honored-FW
FW: Thank you Mike for agreeing to do this interview and being one of the first participants in the latest addition to our "Knowledge is Power" web-site i.e., "the interview section."
In our private correspondence you certainly have convinced me of the "gravity" of what has erroneously become known as the Phoenix Lights; that title certainly doesn't represent what occurred on March 13th, 1997.
In any event, why don't we start by informing the readers of who Mike Fortson is . . . give us some background.
MF: I was born February 24, 1953, in Hertfordshire, UK. My parents are both Americans from Indiana. My father was a staff sergeant in the USAF stationed in London. I spent the first 18 months of my life in England, then Georgia for 5 years or so. Then in 1959 we moved to Kokomo, Indiana where I spent the next 16 years.
I graduated high school in 1971 and unfortunately my lottery number for the draft (Viet Nam) was under 60 and I was headed into the military. Lucky for me my test scores were high enough that the US Navy took me with a 4 year enlistment. During boot camp I was asked if I would be interested in the USN Ceremonial Guard in Washington, D.C. I said, “yes”. I spent my entire Navy career (4 years) in DC doing military funerals in Arlington National, state dinners at the White House, participated in full honor arrivals for foreign heads of state. Highlights included; Nixon’s inauguration, funerals for Presidents Johnson and Truman. I participated in over 1500 military funerals in Arlington National. I had a White House security clearance.
In June of 1972, I married my high school sweetheart. We have now been married for over 34 years. We have 3 sons, now aged 29, 30 and 32. Along with that comes the grand kids; twin girls 11, another grand daughter 8, 7, and my only grandson, 5 months.
I have been in sales since I got out of the Navy in 1975. In 1979 the auto recession pushed us out of Indiana and we were part of the rush to Texas. I worked in the oilfields until 1986. When oil dropped to $6 a barrel and we loaded up again and moved to Arizona. I now sell real estate in Prescott Valley, Arizona.
FW: Sounds like you've led a very rewarding and interesting life; having a "White House security clearance" certainly is an honorarium for one's resume.
Obviously your military career instilled a certain set of values within you, wouldn't you agree?
MF: Well, being raised with a military discipline and being in the Honor Guard at such a young age, I’ve almost always been held to a higher standard. My parents were strict and the Ceremonial Guard was very strict, so it’s pretty much all I knew. Then we had three boys by the time we were 23 or 24. I guess the best way to measure our values is to look at our sons and the lives they lead.
Having and keeping a “White House Security Clearance” is a must for anyone in the Honor Guard of any branch of the US military. After all, most of the time I’m within arm’s length of the President or other heads of state with a fixed bayonet on my rifle. Yes, one better have a very high security clearance. Truthfully, I did not fully appreciate what I had achieved in the military until I had been out for several years. You have no idea the work it takes to have your uniforms perfect. Your brass, shoes and gloves perfect. And since we were in the public eye so much, even our work clothes were starched and pressed. However, on the other side of the coin, I wasn’t operating a 50 cal machine gun in the Mekong Delta.
FW: Most certainly the character of one's offspring is indicative of their upbringing, and you're obviously a proud father; my hat is off to you Mike, as it it is with all those who have served.
Turning to Ufology, prior to the events in March '97, what was your view of the subject if any?
MF: I had heard stories of Roswell, but for the most part…my beliefs or non-beliefs were completely non-existent. I pretty much never gave it much thought, if any. We’ve been told all our lives that “they” don’t exist. That belief in UFO’s/aliens is just fantasy, so I don’t think I had an opinion one way or another. It’s kind’a like being from Missouri…show me. (and “they” did)
FW: So, admittedly, prior to your "life-changing event," you were "ignorant to the subject," and had you been asked about it's validity, you would have dismissed it . . . correct?
MF: Correct. I had never sky watched looking for ET prior to March 13, 1997. Nor had I been in any in depth conversations on the subject. I probably would have said, “yeah, right” if someone had told me of an encounter with a UFO.
However, I do remember watching television and movies about UFO’s/aliens. I was a Star-Trek fan in the 60’s-70’s. I also remember watching tv shows like; “Lost in Space”, “The Invaders”, “Space 1999”, etc. movies like “ET” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. These were popular shows and we did enjoy them. I am also a “Star Wars” fan. But the depth of this was entertainment value only.
FW: Aside from being a sci-fi fan (something we have in common) in essence I feel you, like the rest of us were/are the end product of what I call "societal programming," as well as the input from our parents. In other words it's instilled in us that Ufology lies beyond the borders of normalcy, the subject is silly etc. For those of us ignorant of the subject, (as we all were at one time) we're left with only the a fore mentioned dogma.
As you approached March 13th, Hale-Bopp was visible, and there much ado in the media wasn't there?
MF: Yes, I believe that there were early morning and evening opportunities to view the comet. It was rare to see and I believe if not on the news every night, it was revealed by our local weatherman when viewing times would be. I really don’t know of anyone who at least didn’t watch it for a few minutes at least once. If I remember right, we would keep an ‘eye” on it quite often. It was a rare occurrence and we both enjoyed being able to view it.
FW: So it was common knowledge about the comet, and "eyes were to the skies" so to speak? March 13th fell on what day of the week exactly?
MF: March 13, 1997 was on a Thursday.
FW: Do you recall your activities that day; if so please elaborate.
MF: No, not at all as far as any detail goes. In 1997, I worked for a company out of Chicago. I ran a home office for them. My territory was the entire state of Arizona. I would have worked, placed calls, placed orders, and handled company business. I probably got some groceries as I do almost all the cooking. We would have enjoyed dinner around 6:30 and crashed on the sectional sofa watching television (probably college basketball, as March Madness might be getting underway) Then I awoke from a brief nap and told my wife I was going to bed, I glanced to the television and the clock read 8:30. Nothing of any remembrance or importance occurred that day until 8:30 pm. It was just another normal day at the Fortson household. But, 8:30 pm., will be forever embedded in my memory. It was the exact minute when our lives changed forever.
FW: SO, it's now Thursday night at 8:30, March 13th, 1997 . . . what happened then?
MF: I guess now would be the proper place for me to cut and paste my original report I filed in March of 1997….
See: Eye Witness Mike Fortson's Original Report of ‘The 'Phoenix Lights'
After the massive V shaped object left our field of view, we must have searched the sky for several more minutes. We wondered if anyone else had seen it. We confirmed again and again that it was ONE solid object. And we tried to reason how something that massive could stay aloft without making any noise. It was just too low and too slow, and for sure just way too big to be something of our Earth. The size of the object left us in a state of awe and mild shock. After several minutes of searching, hoping for one more glimpse we went back inside. Nannette sat on the sofa and I sat on a bar stool facing her. We just stared at each other for multiple minutes, maybe 10, maybe even 30, we don’t remember. Then I got up and proceeded back outside and as I passed my wife, I said to her, “we just saw our first UFO!” She looked at me very seriously and said, “I know”. We both went back outside and searched the skies one more time. Wanting really some kind of understanding for what we had just witnessed. But after several minutes of searching we gave up and resigned to the fact that there was no more for us to see. At this point, I’m pretty sure we just went to bed.
I did not call any radio stations. I did not call any television stations. I did not call the police nor did I call Luke AFB. Those thoughts never occurred to me to do as something that needed to be or should be done. At this point we thought that we might be the only ones to have seen this profoundly enormous object.