Illinois Soldiers Follow 'Da Bears' to Big Game in Miami

By Staff Sgt. Glenn Chrisman, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Iraq, Feb. 1, 2007 - Many soldiers from the 1744th Transportation Company weren't alive the last time the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl, in 1986.

But about half of the unit's nearly 170 Illinois Army National Guard soldiers still follow the Bears from year to year in hopes of seeing another Super Bowl title come to the Windy City.

The unit, based near Chicago in Streator, supports logistics missions for the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) near Balad.

For one soldier, the annual big game brings a lifetime of memories. One could say Spc. Kyle Hollingsworth, of Marseilles, Ill., was destined to be a Bears fan from birth. Hollingsworth was born Jan. 26, 1986, just hours before the kick-off of Super Bowl XX.

"I guess you could say it was the first game I ever watched," Hollingsworth said with a smile. "I have always liked the Bears. It might be because my family are Bears' fans, or maybe it was because I was born on Super Bowl Sunday."

Hollingsworth said he has been looking forward to seeing the Bears going back to the Super Bowl, but never thought it would happen while he was deployed to Iraq. "I always envisioned a great 21st birthday present, but never thought it would be the Bears headed back to the Super Bowl for the first time since I was born," he said.

Many soldiers in the unit stayed up late Jan. 21 to watch the conference championship game, which didn't start until 11 p.m. here. "It was bittersweet," Hollingsworth said. "I only got about two hours of sleep before having to get up for the day."

Although he wasn't watching the game in the comfort of his own home, Hollingsworth said he was just glad to get to see the National Football Conference championship game. "I wish I was at home with my family and friends, but I feel fortunate that we have access to TVs and were able to see the game," he said. "It's a big morale booster, that's for sure."

While the Bears go into Super Bowl Sunday as the underdogs, the burning question remains whether quarterback Rex Grossman will help led Chicago to its first championship in 21 years or help Indianapolis and Peyton Manning to get the monkey off their back.

"I'm glad Chicago stuck with Grossman," Hollingsworth said. "He's a young quarterback and just needs some fine-tuning to take him to the next level."

Hollingsworth was optimistic of the outcome. "They're both good teams, but I like Chicago's chances to come out on top," he said.

The 1744th Transportation Company mobilized in June for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit includes soldiers from all parts of Illinois, including many from the Chicago area. The soldiers are expected to be home sometime early this fall.

(Army Staff Sgt. Glenn Chrisman is assigned to 1744th Transportation Company.)

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