Staff Sgt. Cecil Graham plays for a championship flag football team on an American military base in Iraq.
The reward, he said, was "unforgettable.”
Graham was among a group of U.S. soldiers who spent New Year’s Day on their base in Baghdad, playing a game alongside college football greats such as Ty Detmer and Tony Casillas, the former Oklahoma standout. Graham’s team was coached by former OU coach Barry Switzer; Tommy Bowden coached the other side in the 8-on-8 game that’ll be aired during halftime of Monday night’s Fiesta Bowl.
"We have to keep going over here,” Graham, of Roanoke, Va., said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press after the game. "A lot of people don’t know what we go through over here. A lot of people have their own assumptions. But like coach Switzer and Tony said, to know that people at home have our back, it’s a blessing. It’s unforgettable.”
Unforgettable for Switzer and Casillas, too — for many reasons, one of them perhaps more memorable than others.
Casillas said warning sirens telling everyone to "get down” blared three times Thursday night, a reminder of the constant dangers in that particular part of the world.