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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — One year ago, Sgt. Willie Brown was watching the Super Bowl in a cavernous, converted-warehouse club at Camp Doha, Kuwait. He and his engineering unit were just weeks from helping tear down obstacles on the path to Baghdad.

This year, Brown was sitting in a basement club on Yongsan Garrison, nursing a cold beer and watching the New England Patriots take on the Carolina Panthers. He was still far from home, but at least this time he could just worry about the game.

“Yeah, last year was kind of hard to forget that you were sitting in Kuwait, just waiting to get the call to go to war. This is more like it,” he said, nodding at a plate of breakfast food and glass of beer.

At bases throughout South Korea, servicemembers and civilians took time out in the early morning to observe what has become almost a national holiday of its own: Super Bowl Monday. Here, the day has turned into free time for soldiers, with most given time off until one hour after the game.

And at base clubs on Yongsan, they were taking advantage.

“Other than getting up at 5 a.m., this is pretty cool,” said Pvt. Chris Foye, of the 305th Quartermaster Company.

Foye had more than a passing interest in the game. A native of South Boston, he remembers being at home with friends two years ago when the Patriots won the Super Bowl.

“Of cowarse,” he’d rather be home again this year, he said, drawing out the last few syllables with a deep New England accent.

“My friend is back home, half in the bag, having a great time right now. I’ll get him on the phone after the game.”

Foye, decked out in a New England Patriots jersey and knit cap, sat at a long table in the Main Post Club with his roommate, Pfc. Sergeil Toscano. A replica metal Vince Lombardi trophy, one of the club decorations, sat between them.

Toscano, a native of Ecuador and a New York Giants football fan, was wearing the light blue and black of the Carolina Panthers.

“I have to root for Panthers, because he’s rooting for the Patriots,” Toscano said.

Over at the Navy Club on Yongsan Garrison, with the close first half most fans focused on the game and not on a trio of Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders, who were on hand as celebrity guests. A few sailors and soldiers straggled over to their table before the game for photos and autographs, but most seemed unfazed by the cheerleaders — until they put on a short halftime show.

Before the game, many groaned at the long countdown to kick-off. And of course, they complained about not being able to see the Stateside Super Bowl ads, which have become just as popular as the game itself.

When the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, appeared on-screen instead of a million-dollar beer ad, groans went up in the crowd.

Some sailors at the Navy Club had significantly better seats for last year’s Super Bowl. Petty Officer 1st Class Shane Fleck, of Naval Security Group Detachment Seoul, was in San Diego helping out with the military’s participation in the live halftime show. But the experience wasn’t all fun for the Montana native and Oakland Raiders fan.

“I watched my boys go down in flames,” he said, referring to last year’s Super Bowl blowout. This year, Fleck ended up rooting for the Panthers.


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