For Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay, the NFL's Salute to Service initiative is personal.
Though Kelsay chose a career in football, his family has a history of military service, including a close cousin currently stationed overseas. Kelsay says he and his brother Chad, a former Pittsburgh Steeler, considered continuing in that tradition of service.
"My brother Chad and I had scholarships to play football so our route was different," Kelsay said, "but had we not been athletes or excelled in sports the way we did, that might have been an avenue that we would have chosen to take."
Kelsay's cousin Andy has served in special ops overseas for over three years, and will finally come home at the end of 2012 to be stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas with his wife and two young children. Growing up, Kelsay says he and Andy were always running around outdoors, pretending to be soldiers in their rural Nebraska hometown, so it's no surprise that Andy chose a military path.
"To do what he's done for his country is a tremendous honor to our family and to him personally," Kelsay said. "It'll be good to have him home."
Although a neck injury has ruled him out for the Bills Salute to Service game at Ralph Wilson Stadium, it will be an emotional one for Kelsay as Andy is just one of many of his relatives who has served in active duty.
"I have a lot of respect for those guys who risk their lives for our freedom," said Kelsay. "A lot of them, I think, do things that we as common society don't understand and I don't think ever could understand unless you go and experience the things they've done first hand. My heart goes out to everybody who has family members overseas."