Packers players Mason Crosby, Ryan Grant, B.J. Raji and Jarius Wynn competed Friday in online video game action against active Wisconsin National Guard members who currently are overseas in the Pro vs. G.I. Joe program in the Lambeau Field Atrium.
WPS Health Insurance sponsored the event as a component of Operation Fan Mail, the gameday military family recognition program where a nominated family is saluted on the field prior to the national anthem.
"WPS is proud to be part of a program that brings our uniformed service personnel back in contact with their immediate family and the world-renowned Green Bay Packers," said Bill Bathke, WPS Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. "We thank the men and women of our uniformed services for all they do for our country."
The players took turns competing, first in games of Guitar Hero and then Call of Duty, against PFC Trent Lein (Blair, Wis.), PFC Bryan Schneider (Milwaukee), SPC Brett Lange (Milton, Wis.) and SGT Robert Spors (Janesville, Wis.). The soldiers were at a USO Center Kuwait, enjoying a week of leave from their regular duties in Iraq for the event.
Members of the soldiers' families were in attendance in the Atrium to witness the competition. The players also had the opportunity to visit with the troops via video conferencing after the game, as well as with the families in attendance.
SPC Brett Lange's family was on hand to watch the event, and his mother, Doris, simply enjoyed being able to speak to him.
"I've only had the chance to speak to him about four times since February," she explained. "I can't thank everyone enough for the opportunity."
Lange's sister, Angela, enjoyed speaking to him as well, but also took pleasure knowing her brother was having a good time.
"I'm glad he's enjoying it," she said. "I'm happy to see that he's happy. He's a Packers fan, so I know he's having a great time with those guys."
In addition to the families on hand for the competition, 30 members of the Wisconsin National Guard were present to cheer on the competitors and also visit with the players, pose for pictures and get autographs.
For the Packers players, the opportunity to visit with the soldiers and their families was a rewarding Friday afternoon activity, not to mention the video games.
"I'm going out now to get Call of Duty," said Ryan Grant, with a smile. Then turning serious, he added, "It was fun to play against them over there. Knowing what it does for moral is great. It was a pleasure to do it.
"Seeing them visit with their families on the video link was cool, too."
Pro vs. GI Joe aims to do something no other morale boosting organization does: provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to military men and women serving all over the world. The organization's mission is to set up real-time video game competitions between professional athletes and troops stationed overseas via the Internet using PlayStation, Xbox Live and the Wii.
More information about the program can be found online at www.prosvsgijoes.org.