For the second straight year a Buffalo Bills player will be making those who serve their country overseas feel a bit more appreciated as offensive lineman Brad Butler will leave Wednesday for a 10-day trip to visit several U-S military bases in Afghanistan.
"The plan is to fly commercially all the way to Qatar and then when we land in Qatar there's a military base there," said Butler. "We'll spend a day and a half there with the troops stationed there. From there we'll fly a military plane into Afghanistan. Once in Afghanistan we'll try to make it to three to four bases a day."
The goodwill trip is similar to the one taken by Butler's teammate Paul Posluszny, who visited several military bases in Iraq last offseason. Butler has already had a few conversations with Posluszny to get a feel for what the atmosphere and conditions will be like. He's also been briefed by the military to be prepared for travel plans changing at the drop of a hat.
"The main this is our flights are going to be based on what the military is doing," said Butler. "From what I understand it's a waiting game often because if something happens out on the battlefront it's something where you might be sitting around. Let's be honest it's a war zone so you can go to one place and an event can occur there and you're stuck there for the next four or five days. So they told us to be very cognizant of the fact that it is a war zone and to be ready for anything."
And with newly inaugurated President Barack Obama announcing that the United States will be stepping up military efforts in Afghanistan there's a strong likelihood that delays will crop up from time to time during Butler's goodwill tour. But Butler is at ease knowing he'll be flanked by highly trained soldiers at all times.
"They're not taking risk with us," said Butler. "We've got the best and the brightest in the world to take care of us. The main thing is that the military and what they've got to do over there comes first. So we're ready to take a back seat to what the military might need at that time. If we're stuck waiting for a helicopter because there's a more pressing need for a few hours then that's the way it's got to be."
Butler's motivation to visit with the military out in the field stems from a deep respect for those who serve due mainly to a family history in the armed services.
"My one grandfather was a marine and my other grandfather was in the army," said Butler. "My great uncle fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. He was a tank operator. I grew up hearing stories about the war. It certainly wasn't anything glorified, but it just showed me how selfless somebody could be to have so much respect for your country that you put it ahead of yourself. I just thought as a kid where you grow up in a society where it's all about me… that selflessness resonated with me at a young age."
Butler has been looking forward to this trip for some time and while he'll be interested in meeting and talking with the troops, he's not so sure how interested they'll be in him.
"I understand a couple of the Buffalo Jills will be going on the trip with me and based on the stories relayed to me by Poz, the troops care a lot more about the cheerleaders than the players," said Butler. "So that'll be fun to watch."
Still with plans to visit several hundred troops Butler is eager to get a sense for what it's like to live life in a heightened sense of readiness in a war zone so the civilians back home can sleep at night.
"I think you have to experience it right there with the troops and see what their lives are like and what they're giving up to take care of this country," said Butler. "Regardless of what you think of any of these wars, you've got to respect these troops and how selfless they are and I know I do. It's just something that's amazing to me and I can't wait to see it first hand."