Florence family one of service

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Drayton Florence is proud to be a professional football player. He knows he's been blessed in many ways to play the game he loves. And while he respects the game it pales in comparison to the respect he has for those in the military that serve our country.

Though Veteran's Day won't be celebrated nationally until Friday, the Bills will be honoring all branches of the military in a pre-game salute Sunday knowing it's their last home game before the holiday.

Florence has first-hand knowledge of just what service means. With a father that served in the army along with an older sister that is still active in the army Buffalo's cornerback understands the sacrifices that are made.

"My dad, my sister, all of my uncles, my grandfather and I've got cousins that are active," said Florence. "Most of it is just that commitment of being away from your family, time, risk, everything that goes into it. That's what they sign up for and I don't think we give those people enough credit with what they deal with each and every day. The mental stress that they have to deal with, it's a tough situation because they're on edge all the time and have to be on alert. There are things that they can't really talk about when they come back and there are things that they see that they try to forget, but it's still there."

Florence's sister Lakisha just completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan this past spring.

"She was in Afghanistan and was there for nine months, and her husband has done three tours over there," said Florence. "My cousin is in the Army reserves and serving actively."

Unfortunately service can also come with a price. Florence's extended family had to deal with the loss of a loved one in the military this past June when his second cousin was killed in action in Afghanistan.

"He was from Gainesville, Florida," said Florence. "He didn't grow up too far from me. He was younger than me. He had a tough life growing up. Both his parents left him when he was little and he was basically raised by the community. He had a few run-ins with the law in his early life, but got his life on track and was serving his country doing the right thing."

When Florence's older sister returned from her most recent deployment the family had a big gathering welcoming her home. It's not often that the defensive back gets to reunite with his sibling, but he's grateful for the time they can spend together.

"Within the last two years I had not seen her at all, and this year I saw her twice so far and that's been good," he said. "The main thing with her is she's got three kids. So for her kids to not be able to see their mom is tough, plus her husband is in the service also so they were both away at one point. It's a lot tougher on the kids and my mom has to take care of them. It keeps her busy, but we all want her home and safe."

Florence admits that the pre-game ceremonies for the NFL's Kickoff Weekend on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11th did choke him up a bit prior to Buffalo's game against the Chiefs.

"Opening day this year was real emotional with 9-11 and all the people that lost their lives and the tragic thing that happened," said Florence. "But Veteran's Day really hits home with me because it's more than a holiday celebrating those troops that have served this country. It's personal. We just play football on Sunday, those troops lay their lives on the line and are away from their families and make a lot more important commitments than we do."

And after all the branches of the military are recognized Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium in a Veteran's Day salute prior to Buffalo's home game against the Jets and the national anthem is playing Florence will again be thinking about those that made their country their calling.

"I'll be thinking about my family that serves and playing for them," he said. "They'll be at home watching on Direct TV like they do each and every week. Recognizing their service and the service of all the men and women in uniform is important. Our game is measured in wins and losses. What they do for all of us can't be measured."

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