July 7, 2006

Kosids enjoying time together

By Rob Vanstone,
Regina Leader-Post

Bob Kosid and his son, Rob, are savouring a reunion within a reunion.

Both Robert Kosids arrived in Regina on Thursday for a 40th-anniversary celebration of the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ first-ever Grey Cup victory.

The CFL team is covering the costs for each player and one guest. Bob Kosid — with the encouragement of his second wife, Wendy — opted to invite Rob, who returned March 24 from serving with the United States Marine Corps in Iraq.

Rob, who is a lieutenant-colonel, resides in Oceanside, Calif. His father lives in Hamilton. Father and son saw each other Thursday for the first time since July 4, 2005.

“My Grey Cup is coming home … and coming here,” Rob Kosid said at the Hotel Saskatchewan Radisson Plaza.

Rob marked the special occasion by giving his father a present.

“When my dad retired from football, he gave me his football helmet,” he said. “To reciprocate, I brought him the floppy hat I wore in Iraq.

“I also brought an indelible marker. I’m going to ask all his teammates to sign the helmet this weekend.”

Rob received his invitation to the reunion via e-mail in January while stationed at a base near the Jordan/Syria border.

“I was floored, absolutely,” the 41-year-old Kosid said. “We were living in plywood shacks. I said, ‘I’m going to Regina!’ They all knew my old man played ball up here and that I have an affinity for all things Canadian. I said, ‘I’m going back to the town I grew up in.’ ”

Bob Kosid joined the Roughriders in 1964 and became a full-time Reginan three years later. The Kosids lived in Whitmore Park on Emerald Park Road, as did Ron Lancaster and family.

Rob Kosid attended Elsie Dorsey and W.C. Howe elementary schools while his father was a defensive back with Saskatchewan. Many of his teammates from 1966 and beyond are at the reunion.

“These were my first heroes,” Rob said while sitting in the hotel’s lounge, near the likes of Bill Baker, Larry Dumelie, Eagle Keys and Tim Roth.

Rob moved to Kentucky in 1973 after the dissolution of his father’s first marriage. He joined the Marines after graduating from Centre College in Danville, Ky.

Rob has made four trips to Iraq, including two extended deployments — which lasted from September to March in each of the past two years.

Bob Kosid was on “pins and needles” during his son’s extended stints in Iraq, but would have been more worried if Rob were a ground troop, as opposed to someone who has been the commanding officer of a 1,000-man unit and second in command of 5,000 men.

“When you’re a little bit up the hierarchy, I’m a little bit more apt to think you’re going to get protected a little bit,” said Bob, a 1997 inductee into the Roughriders’ Plaza of Honor. “Naturally, anytime you have anybody over in that sort of area, you’re not going to be too comfortable until they get their butt back in North America.”

Despite those apprehensions, Bob is proud of his son’s accomplishments.

“You don’t read in the paper what really goes on a lot of times over there,” Bob said.

“It doesn’t sell. Blood and gore sells. Unfortunately, a lot of the things that I heard that came from my son, I never read in the paper whatsoever.

“There’s co-operation with the public and (they’re) doing an awful lot of good things. Now, don’t get me wrong, you’ve got areas that you’d call death zones, particularly in the larger cities like Baghdad. They’re killing everybody and you can’t protect against that.”

Rob has been involved in a few “skirmishes,” but can also speak of positive experiences. He has worked to develop and fortify the Iraqi army, and has contributed to the restoration of schools.

While in Iraq, Rob spent two Christmases away from his family — his wife, Michelle, and two children (daughter Sarah, 11, and son Cameron, 5). Rob is to retire from the Marines on July 1, 2007.

“The first Christmas, Dec. 25 seemed like any other day,” Rob recalled. “My wife sent me the DVD of that Christmas. I’ve always been Mr. Christmas Cheer, but there was a distinct lack of it in the DVD. I didn’t get it until February. That’s when it hit me.”

The excitement of the reunion hit Rob shortly after he landed in Regina.

“It’s difficult to put into words,” he said with a smile. “It’s like you’ve been anticipating a movie — something you’ve been waiting to see for a long time — and now you’re in the first five minutes and it’s really good so far.

“I’ve been thinking about this day for a long time.”