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Bills in the Bowl, Bombs in Baghdad


Most Bills fans can tell you right away when you ask the question—where were you when the Bills lost Super Bowl XXV? Where did you watch the game? Who were you with? What was your reaction when Scott Norwood's kick went wide right?

Twenty five years later, one Bills fan has a vivid recollection of the game. Edwin Garris of Buffalo followed the game from 11,000 miles away. He was serving with the U.S. Army outside in Iraq. Garris was a Sergeant with the 24th Infantry Cavalry unit stationed outside Baghdad.

Garris grew up in Buffalo and he brought his loyalty to the Bills with him to Ft. Stewart in Georgia; to Germany, and eventually to the Gulf War in 1991.

"I love the Buffalo Bills," Garris says. "When I was stationed in Germany I would defend Buffalo every time I had an opportunity."  He says when the Bills Super Bowl run began in the 1990 regular season, he knew something was up with his favorite team.

"I had all my Bills stuff with me," he says. "My wife sent it to me during the season since we were winning so much. I had her send my jerseys."

Garris brought his Bills gear and his devotion to the team to Operation Desert Storm in January 1991, when he was first deployed in Saudi Arabia, then to Iraq. He says he knew he was a part of world history, and his team was making its' mark in football history.

"It was amazing for me," Garris says. "I had been watching the Bills my whole life. To actually have a winning season where my team was doing some unbelievable things, and then to be in Iraq and combat, being a young sergeant--it was an amazing time to have the Bills going to the Super Bowl, it was wonderful."

Sgt. Garris was a crewman handling stinger missiles in Iraq. His job was to defend his unit from attacks from the air. And as the U.S. troops approached Baghdad, Super Bowl XXV drew near. 

"We were actually moving towards a breach point, because we had to breach a berm to get into our battle zone.  At that point, we had stopped-we had been moving for 18-hours. We had to stop to re-set and re-fit before continuing."

During that break, the Bills and the Giants kicked off in Tampa. Garris found a way to follow the game on radio. He listened to Jack Buck and Hank Stram call the game on Armed Forces Radio, as he huddled with his unit around a boom-box radio in the desert.

"We had a pretty nice radio" he says. "We were in an assembly area, all of us had moved into an assembly area where could refuel and re-fit our equipment. I was done doing my job and sitting on the hood of my Humvee, listening to the game with some other guys. As I was listening to the game, you could see the B-52 bombers doing a bombing run into Baghdad. It was unbelievable. You could see them go right over you.  They were in formation. It was a pretty unique thing to actually see."

Garris missed the end of the game, perhaps mercifully for a Bills fan. His superior officers called a meeting that started right around the start of the fourth quarter in Tampa. When he returned to the radio, it was just moments after the climax of the game.

"I missed the actual kick," he says, still incredulous after 25 years. "It couldn't have been more than thirty seconds. When I got back to the radio, they told me the horrible story about the kick. They were yelling and screaming, it was wide right, Buffalo lost. I was crushed. I was really crushed. I could not believe that we missed it-a 47-yard field goal."

Garris and the 24th Infantry Division went right to the outskirts of Baghdad without suffering a casualty. Then President Bush halted the U.S. advance and the Army never did invade Iraq's capital city.

He's now a Lieutenant in the Buffalo Police Department. And Garris is still in the military. He's a Command Sergeant Major in the National Guard. He also volunteers for the Veterans One-Stop Center of Western New York.

But he'll never forget his experience following Super Bowl XXV from half a world away. And he vows that if the Bills make it back to the big game, he'll be watching from the stands, not listening on a radio in the desert.

"That was the most memorable Super Bowl I've ever had and I think about it often," Garris says. "I tell myself if my team makes it back to the Super Bowl, I don't care where in the world I'm at—I'm  going."

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