They traded one uniform for another this past Friday night, and while they’re proud to serve their country first, the military men that got the opportunity to unveil the new uniform of their hometown NFL team was about as good as it gets.
"It was beyond anything I could even describe," said Staff Sergeant Greg Price. "It was a once in a lifetime thing. I played football in high school, but never at the stadium so I got to feel what i always wanted to be growing up for that 45 minutes or so."
“We have all been watching the Bills from back in the day and we still watch them today,” said Sergeant Kevin Reynolds from the National Guard and avid Bills fan. “We watch all the games and a lot of us come to the games. It was pretty awesome. We were treated real well. The whole event in general just hands down was awesome.”
Reynolds and Price were two of six military men with Western New York roots that were chosen to don the Bills new uniforms for the 2011 season. Fans that came to the event knew that the military was going to be part of the uniform festivities, but they were very surprised to see that they would be front and center. The response by the fans had the servicemen tingling.
“It was awe-inspiring,” said Reynolds. “I told some of the guys I work with that it was exhilarating. You get goose bumps when you hear the fans cheer. When we walked on stage and they all started yelling because they saw the new uniforms that was cool, but when Steve Tasker announced that all of us on stage were personnel serving in the military and they erupted again, it was goose bumps from head to toe.”
"It was intense," said Price. "It was one of the best things I've ever done."
Now recruiters for the National Guard in Buffalo, Price and Reynolds were two of the more decorated servicemen on stage Friday night.
Deployed to Iraq in 2004, Reynolds played a big part in successfully capturing three of Iraq’s most wanted insurgents with the help of another soldier.
“My job was convoy security and we did over 300 convoys over there, but would do convoy security for a couple of days and then our down time was checkpoint security,” he said. “We would check all the vehicles coming into the base and make sure there were no bombs or explosive devices. Every day there is intelligence that’s released and there’s a BOLO list that tells you to be on the lookout.”
Reynolds and his partner got a call at their security checkpoint from headquarters telling them there was a vehicle that had to be commandeered that was heading their way.
“I jumped into a Humvee with another soldier and we drove off a couple of hundred yards from our checkpoint and intercepted the vehicle,” he said. “I held them at gunpoint and got them out of there and the people came and verified it was them and we turned them over to the Iraqis.
“It was a heck of a day. They had done a lot of attacks on military areas and also on Iraqi police and they had killed quite a few Iraqi police and civilians so they really wanted those guys.”
Price, meanwhile was an infantryman stationed in Baghdad in late 2003, and saw his share of action as well, but what he relishes are the bonds he made with his comrades during his 15-month deployment.
All of the men who participated Friday night have made sacrifices. Some were more obvious than others like the left leg U.S. Army Specialist Nick Stone lost to a roadside bomb while deployed in Afghanistan just over a year ago. Now wearing a prosthetic left leg complete with a Bills logo on it, Stone was charged up to represent the Bills for a day, especially in light of the reception his and his fellow servicemen received.
“That’s a really good thing when the crowd is into you like that,” said Stone. “Everyone has dreams of playing on that field, everybody that plays football has dreams of making it to the big leagues. It was really special to be there. It was just awesome.”
Though their bond as military men and Western New Yorkers is strong, their collective affinity for the Bills only makes that bond stronger. It also made their unique experience in revealing the Bills new look all the more special.
"We automatically were close friends even though we had only spent a couple of hours together," said Price. "There was a lot that we all had in common."
“We got to hang out in the locker room. We got to speak with Jim Kelly," said Reynolds. "It was a once in a lifetime event and we were proud to be a part of it.”
Here is a list of the servicemen that participated in the Bills 2011 uniform unveiling.
SGT. Anthony Kuhn – U.S. Army Reserve
North Tonawanda HS graduate
Joined service in 1996
In 1999 was All-Army wrestling, trained at Olympic training center
Served in Iraq as advisor to Iraqi Army Brigade
Currently in charge of company of drill sergeants
Awards – Bronze star, Meritorious service medal, Army commendation medal, Combat Action badge
Staff SGT. James McClendon – U.S. Marine Corps
Select member of Gen. McCarthy’s color guard
Deployed to Iraq in 2007
A part of Operation Moonlight where he trained with Jordanian troops in 2008
Awards – Navy achievement medal, Marine corps achievement medal, Good Conduct medal
Staff SGT. Greg Price – U.S. National Guard
Amherst HS graduate – football, wrestling
Joined service in 2000 with his brother
Infantryman deployed in 2003 as part of Iraqi Freedom 2
Currently a recruiter at Connecticut Street Armory in Buffalo
Awards – Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, Combat infantry badge, Army service ribbon
SGT. Kevin Reynolds – National Guard
Westfield Academy graduate
Joined service in 2003
Marine Corps prison guard for 10 years
Tours in Okinawa, Japan and Iraq (2004)
Served as Military Police chief in Iraq
Currently a recruiter in Buffalo
Awards – Combat action badge, Army commendation medal, Army good conduct medal, National Defense medal, Global War on Terror Service medal
Lance Corporal Robert Smith – U.S. Marine Corps
2008 Maple Grove HS graduate
Joined service in 2010
Has 2 brothers in Marine corps, Cole Smith, Garrett Smith
Father is also in the Marine corps, Major Jeffrey C. Smith
Specialist Nick Stone – U.S. Army
Frontier HS graduate – Hamburg, NY
Joined service in 2007
Deployed to Afghanistan in 2009
Lost left leg to a roadside bomb in May 2010
Medically retired, aims to finish college with degree in criminal justice
Awards – Purple heart