The Green Bay Packers and Network Health paid special tribute to U.S. Army veteran John P. Hofer during Thursday night's game against the Detroit Lions for 'Operation Fan Mail.'
Operation Fan Mail, the program that recognizes military families and veterans at each Packers home game, is marking its 17th season this year.
At age 19, Hofer enlisted in the U.S. Army after volunteering for the draft. He graduated as a medic and was sent overseas to serve with the AmeriCAL Division in Vietnam from 1970-71. During this time, he earned his combat medic badge and was awarded a Bronze Star for his action in Dragon Valley. Upon his return, he utilized the G.I. Bill to attend the University of Illinois and later Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine, graduating with a Doctorate in Dental Medicine in 1986. He continued his military service by transitioning to the U.S. Navy Reserves, retiring in 2003 as a Commander in the U.S. Navy Dental Corps.
He spent his entire career working at Veterans Affairs hospitals, finally landing in Madison, Wis., in 2000, where he served as the Chief of Dental services for fifteen years. He founded the Hall of Heroes, an ongoing program for formal recognition of courageous actions during a veteran's military service, which is now implemented in four different VA hospitals nationally, including Tomah and Madison, Wis.
Hofer has been actively involved in community advocacy efforts for veterans. He was instrumental in facilitating "Tee It Up for the Troops" in Middleton, Wis., over the last 12 years, granting countless service members the help they need to heal, transition, grow and thrive. He also served on the Dane County Veterans Affairs Board as a subject matter expert on how to promote and enhance the county's ability to support service members. He also founded the Madison Mallards Veterans Recognition Ceremony, honoring veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and as Chair of the Dane County Veterans Commission, he procured free bus passes for disabled veterans, a process that has continued for 17 years.
The Office of the Governor recognized Hofer's devotion to duty with a certificate of appreciation in 2013. The same year, he was awarded "Veteran of the Year" by the AmeriCAL Division Veterans Association, the outfit he honorably served in the Vietnam War.
Hofer attended Sunday's game with his wife, Beverly, and his son, Max, who is a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy and nominated his father to be recognized at this week's game. Their group also included Max's wife, Molly.
Operation Fan Mail, which debuted in 2007, is designed to honor those who are on active duty or are veterans of the military, along with their families. In addition to being recognized on the video boards prior to the game, selected families will receive four tickets to the game, courtesy of Network Health. The Packers and Network Health will host a family at each 2023 home game and recognize them on the field during pregame activities. A total of 180 families have been saluted during the past 15 seasons.
To choose families, the Packers and Network Health are asking interested families, or friends of eligible families, to submit an essay, 500 words or less, on why a particular fan should be saluted this season.
Essays can be sent to Operation Fan Mail, P.O. Box 10628, Green Bay, WI, 54307-0628 or online at packers.com/Lambeau-field/operation-fan-mail. Families intended for recognition are those that have a member of their family serving on active duty, or a member of their family who is a veteran. The family member can be a spouse, mother, father, son, daughter or sibling.