The Green Bay Packers and WPS Health Insurance paid special tribute to U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Kevin Parke during Sunday's Packers-Cardinals game for 'Operation Fan Mail.'
Parke grew up in Spring Lake Park, Minn., and his late mother was from Milltown, Wis. He is currently an explosive ordnance disposal technician for the 96th Explosive Ordnance Flight, 96th Civil Engineer Group at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
In 2003, Parke joined the Air Force and was soon deployed to the Bargam Air Base in Afghanistan. While deployed, he was awarded his second Air Force Commendation Medal and an Army Achievement Medal for his accomplishments.
Parke's most recent deployment was to the Helmand Province in Afghanistan, where he was a part of the 32nd Georgian Battalion. His three-person team disarmed 78 IEDs, performed 45 post-blast analyses after IED detonations and engaged enemy forces. During his missions, his team was the target of IED explosions on three separate occasions while traveling in armored transport vehicles. He sustained casualties including a traumatic brain injury, a herniated back disc and post-traumatic stress syndrome. Parke received multiple awards for his service, including two Purple Hearts. He returned home in December 2010.
Accompanying Parke to the game were his father, Kent, his uncle, Lloyd Thorsbakken, and his friend Cole Traynor.
Operation Fan Mail, which debuted in 2007, is designed to recognize families with a member who is on active duty. The Packers and WPS Health Insurance will host a family at each 2012 home game and recognize them on the field during pregame activities. A total of 52 families have been recognized with the program.
To choose families, the Packers and WPS Health Insurance 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. Essays can be sent to: Operation Fan Mail, P.O. Box 10628, Green Bay, WI, 54307-0628. Essays also can be submitted to the Packers online at http://nfl.packers.com/gameday/gamedaypromotions/operationfan_mail.
Families intended for recognition are those that have a member serving on active duty. The family member can be a spouse, mother, father, son, daughter or sibling.
In addition to being recognized on-field prior to the game, selected families will receive four tickets to the game and a care package from WPS.