It was another classic NFL matchup Sunday evening at Lambeau Field, as the Green Bay Packers took on the Dallas Cowboys. But more importantly, Sunday’s matchup not only gave fans an exciting prime-time showdown, but also, a chance to honor our troops for the Packers’ “Military Appreciation Game,” which was presented by Oshkosh Defense and the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
Hours before kickoff, Lambeau Field had a special guest stop by the Packers Hall of Fame. Under Secretary of the Army, the Honorable Joseph W. Westphal, made a special visit to the Hall’s newest exhibit, ‘Pro Football and the American Spirit.’ The exhibit, which pays tribute to the 1,200 NFL players and coaches who have interrupted their football careers to answer the call of duty and serve their country, has received tremendous fan appreciation.
And for Westphal, such an exhibit was truly a site to see as he and Oshkosh Defense director of Communications Eddie Garcia, a former Packers placekicker, thoughtfully examined the many artifacts displayed throughout the exhibit.
Westphal, who currently serves as the 30th Under Secretary of the Army, has had a distinguished career of service in both academia and government and was glad to make a trip to Lambeau Field for the Packers Military Appreciation Game.
“I’m very excited to be here tonight,” Westphal said. “I was able to bring some wounded warriors from the Walter Reed Army Medical Department on my plane, so to be here and see this kind of support is going to be very exciting to me personally. In addition, just to be with the Wisconsin National Guard unit, who has had one of the toughest missions in Afghanistan, will really be a pleasure.”
Westphal, a sports fan, knew that Sunday’s matchup between th Packers and Cowboys was especially fitting to honor the many troops serving our country.
“I am a baseball fan and a football fan,” Westphal said. “While baseball used to be called the American pastime, I have realized that baseball has become a very regional game. But football has become a national pastime. I think football, in a way, has taken over that role, especially when you have teams like the Packers, who are in the national scope.
“I believe I read somewhere, that the two teams playing tonight have probably the most fans, nationally, of any team in the NFL. Seeing the community spirit and support here in Green Bay, truly shows what the Packers represent. They really are a part of the American culture. So it is particularly special for me to be here today and see that.”
In conjunction with the Packers’ Military Appreciation Game, the Green Bay Packers and WPS Health Insurance paid special tribute to Jim “Maggie” Megellas for ‘Operation Fan Mail.’
Megellas, a 93-year-old Fond du Lac native, was the first World War II veteran to receive the program’s recognition. And as a diehard Packers fan, this widely respected veteran and hometown hero was proud to take the field of his team, surrounded by thousands of thankful fans.
As Megellas took the field, prior to kickoff with fellow veterans and current troop members, the standing ovation and boisterous cheers were one of the greatest honors this humble man of so many honors has received.
“I always say that the Green Bay Packers are a part of my birthright and a part of my heritage,” Megellas said. “But to be honest, I think every Packers fan, especially those who live in the area say that. I saw the league grow, I saw the Lombardi years, and have more memories of this team than I could have imagined.”
However, Megellas lost track of his beloved team once he was deployed from the country for 15-some years, serving our country.
But the distance and surrounding circumstances did not keep Megellas from keeping up with his Packers.
“When I was in places like Yemen, Columbia, and Panama, I had a Trans Atlantic Radio with me,” Megellas said. “I would have it with me on Sundays and could actually listen to the Packers games, which I couldn’t believe.”
As Megellas continued to serve our country and receive accolades many may never achieve, he stayed true to his roots, which were right there with the Packers.
“To know that the fans here today are just like me, in being a true Packer-backer, and then to come back here and be introduced on the field and recognized is really something special,” he said. “Had I been invited anywhere else, it wouldn’t mean the same; this is like home to me. To sit up here and be a guest of the Green Bay Packers is indeed more than just an honor, it is a significant chapter in the story of my life. It gives you a great feeling of pride.”
Upon entering Sunday’s matchup, fans also took part in the Packers’ Military Appreciation festivities as hundreds added their name to the Oshkosh Defense signature wall, displayed in the Atrium. For every signature added, Oshkosh Defense will donate $2 to the Fischer Foundation, a program that that helps support wounded soldiers.
Mike Zylka from Whitefish Bay, Wis., added his signature, along with a few words of encouragement for the troops serving our country.
“The amount of names already added to the wall is amazing,” Zylka said. “I wanted to make sure to add mine and show my support for our troops.”
It was clear just how much support the fans in attendance hold for our serving troops as the standing ovation rose again during the halftime presentation.
Fans rose from their seats when the more than 100 members of the Wisconsin National Guard’s 951st “Sapper” Engineer Company took the field. The unit, from the Tomahawk and Rhinelander areas, returned this past summer from a deployment in Afghanistan. Joining the unit on the field was the family of Sgt. Ryan Adams, who was killed in action.
Another Packer-backer, Wayne Stark from Mayville, Wis., was able to add yet another amazing Green Bay Packers highlight to his already impressive list. After winning the Packers-Cowboys VIP Ticket Package contest, Stark and his son, Matthew, were treated to a special gameday experience. The prize package, which included two general seating tickets, two pregame field passes, a two-night stay at the Wingate by Wyndham Green Bay Hotel and a $50 gift card for the Packers Pro Shop was the ideal treat for this father and son to share.
“I have been to many amazing Packers games, some of the most memorable ones,” Stark said as he and his son stood on the Packers sideline during warm-ups. “But to stand right here, on the sidelines, is something I have dreamed about. This is more than I could have asked for and easily another moment I will never forget.”
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