This former Army officer celebrates July 4 by competing in hot dog eating contests

A former Army officer will spend his Independence Day Tuesday by competing in the renowned Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

“Buffalo” Jim Reeves was one of 20 other competitors to earn a spot on the nationally televised gastronomic event. He made the cut by eating 23 hot dogs.

“There’s no big secret to competitive eating,” Reeves told the Army Times. “You try your hardest and you’re either good or you’re not. I happened to be good.”

Members of the Airman and Family Readiness Center prepare hot dogs April 9, 2016, during the Month of the Military Child Carnival at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Chuck Broadway)

Reeves turned from soldier to competitive eater in 2002 by competing in the National Buffalo Wing Festival, where he finished as a finalist. He joined the Army in 1990 after completing reserve officers’ training corps at Clarkson University. He later attended the Engineer Officers’ Basic Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

Reeves served as a a platoon leader, acting company commander, battalion personnel officer and civil engineering officer before leaving the Army in 1998. He now makes a living as a math and computer science teacher in New York.

The former engineering officer’s technique is simple: he downs two hot dogs at a time by separating the hot dogs from the buns and dipping the buns in water to help facilitate swallowing.

Reeves may be good, but he will have to be at his all-time best if he stands a chance at winning Tuesday’s contest. The world-famous Joey Chestnut won last year’s contest by consuming 70 hot dogs, setting a new world record. Odds makers put Chestnut at a distinct advantage to defend his title, known as “The Mustard Belt.” The winner is expected to consume 67.5 dogs, meaning that Reeves will have to triple his qualifying number to have a shot at victory.

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