Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Bills (And Our Military. And West Herr) Make Me Wanna Shout!

Dear Girls,

Since we're talking about football, I have a story to share that warms my heart and will hopefully make you smile.  It's about my brother. My younger brother, Kevin, is a Major in the Air Force.  He's a pretty awesome guy; a C130 Navigator, son, brother, husband, dad AND Buffalo Bills fan.  I'll get to how all these relate to my story in a moment.  

My nephew, brother and sister-in-law
For as long as I can remember my brother has LOVED the Buffalo Bills.  There is a 1980's family video floating around somewhere of my brother boasting about his Christmas haul, "I got my Bills wallet, my Bills shirt, my Bills watch..." and so on.  He went to Jim Kelly football camp when he was younger.  He studied at the University at Buffalo -- close to his beloved team.  And later, when he moved away, he still made rooms in his home dedicated to the Buffalo Bills (my sister-in-law is really understanding).

This is when they lived in North Carolina.
So a few years ago my brother was finishing up a deployment to Afghanistan.  He was returning home on the heels of his 30th birthday.  It was his 5th deployment.   My sister-in-law called me and said she was going to throw a party to celebrate Kevin's return and his milestone birthday!  I asked what I could do to help and she mentioned decorations.

What kind of decorations do you get for a thirty-year-old coming home from the desert?  Well, if it's my brother, who probably still wears his Bills watch with his flight suit, you go with the Bills.

We didn't have much time to pull things together so I thought about decorations and wondered where I could get something fun.  My husband and I were coincidentally living in Buffalo at the time and were familiar with West Herr car dealership and their celebrity spokesman, Steve Tasker.  For those of you who don't know Steve, he was a superstar wide receiver / gunner for the Bills during their golden years in the 1990's.  He now also works as a broadcaster for CBS.

The one and only Mr. Tasker. 
The wheels started spinning and I thought maybe West Herr would have some promotional materials they could spare.  Or better, a stand up cutout of Steve that I could purchase.  I crossed my fingers and called the general number where I spoke to a sympathetic receptionist.  I pled my case and told her how much it would mean to my brother to have some Bills decorations at his 30th birthday/homecoming celebration.  She kindly took down my information and said someone would call me.

I wasn't sure if I'd hear back so I started looking for balloons.  Then the phone rang.  It was the Vice President of West Herr, Bill Loecher.  Here is how the conversation played out:

BL:  "Hi Carrie (I mean, Mrs. Kelly), it's Bill Loecher.  I understand you're looking for some decorations.  I have a cutout for you.  What's your nearest West Herr dealership?  I'll have it to you by the end of the day."

Me:  JUMPING UP AND DOWN "Oh my gosh! THANK YOU.  You have NO idea how much this will mean to him.  He is going to LOVE it.  And thank you so much for getting back to me this quickly!" (Remember, I only had a couple days to get this together)

BL:  "What's your brother's name again?  Steve might be in later. I'll see if he can sign the cutout."

Me:  "OH MY GOSH.  (I AM THE BEST SISTER IN THE WORLD!)  Thank you, I don't know what to say."

Later that day my husband went to pick up a cardboard Steve Tasker from our local West Herr.  Not only was the Steve signed to my brother, but along with the personalized sign came an autographed football.  I won the lottery!  Mr. Loecher called me the next day to follow up.  And if it seems like the story can't get any better, he said, "Your brother sounds like he's a big sports fan.  I've got four Sabres tickets this weekend if he'd like them."  

Yes.  Yes, he would like them. And I will like you forever.

My brother with his autographed ball from Steve Tasker
I tell this story because it restores my faith in people and businesses.  That receptionist could have dismissed my call.  But she didn't.  And the Vice President certainly did not have to call me back.  But he did.  And Steve Tasker did not have to stop everything to sign a football and a cutout.  But he did too.  Everyone went above and beyond to help a stranger.

As an older sister of a serviceman, I can tell you that having a loved one overseas has been, at times, frightening.  I have a difficult time watching the news when my brother is away.  I can't imagine what my sister-in-law and nephew go through or what so many other families experience.    I am so grateful for all our military members and those families.  Anything we can do to show support--like sending an autographed, life-sized cutout of a favorite football player--is awesome and appreciated!

Too often we hear the negative stories so I wanted to share a positive one.  

My brother and nephew sharing a meal with Steve.

My brother and I at his 30th birthday celebration!
As my brother packed up his car that night he joked, "It's going to be a long ride for Nicole (my sister-in-law) to North Carolina because Steve is riding shot gun."  I found out later that he wasn't joking (I mentioned earlier how my sister-in-law is really understanding, right?).

Are you ready for some football?  Go BILLS!  

 And, God Bless the USA, 

PS Go like our FB page to see another cool picture!  My brother had another football dream come true recently.

Mrs. Gosling comment:  I don't live in Buffalo but I am considering buying a car from West Herr.  I love that fact that they went the extra mile or "10 yard line" (if you will) to make sure that you and your brother had the best party ever.  You can't make it up, it's just good ol' fashion CARING. 

Mrs. Williams Comment:  Hey, Mrs. K. has Steve made any other appearances at family events?

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