Packers players Tom Crabtree, Marshall Newhouse and Ryan Taylor took a break from football to perfect their video game skills Saturday, Nov. 3, during a live online video game competition with Wisconsin National Guard members who are currently overseas. The competition was a part of the Pro vs. G.I. Joe program, a nonprofit organization, and took place 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.
Pro vs. G.I. 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 Xbox Live video game competitions between professional athletes and American troops stateside and overseas. During Saturday's event, Packers players challenged the overseas soldiers to a game of Call of Duty.
Regardless of the competition's outcome, Crabtree was excited to be able to give back to the troops in a unique way.
"Anytime you're able to interact with the men and women who protect our lives, and give us the freedoms that we have, it's a special thing," Crabtree said. "And that's what we were kind of trying to do today. As far away as they are, it's still cool to be able to interact."
When asked who played better, Crabtree joked, "I definitely think I played well, but some of those guys were pretty good. I'm not going to say who the winner was."
Wisconsin Marine Corps. Sergeant Timothy Headrick knows first-hand the relief that the program brings to deployed military members. He participated in the program as a "GI Joe" a few years ago while he was on a mission in Iraq.
"When I was in Iraq, I had to fly out to Kuwait, which is a non-combat zone, to participate in this program," Headrick said. "When you're over there it's actually a really big deal because you literally get no sleep while you're there, especially in a combat zone. It's nice to have a little break and to come get some sleep, recharge and see your family. It's huge for the morale of the troops."
Headrick attended Saturday's event with some of his friends to show support for the Guard members that are currently deployed. Being there, he said, reminded him of the sacrifices made every day by U.S. troops, and of how grateful he is for programs like Pro vs. GI Joe.
"My entire experience with the program was awesome," Headrick said. "I was gone about six months before I got to see my family again and just actually seeing them – I can't even explain it. At the time there was a new baby in the family that I hadn't met and it was very special. What Pro vs. GI Joe does for the troops is just awe-inspiring."
For a photo gallery of the Pro vs. G.I. Joe event, click here.