The Green Bay Packers and WPS Health Insurance paid special tribute to U.S. Air Force Tech Sergeant Zachary Rhyner, of Medford, Wis., during Sunday's Packers-Steelers game for 'Operation Fan Mail.'
Rhyner is a combat controller in the Air Force and is responsible for coordinating air strikes and other air-to-ground assets for special operations forces teams. He is stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and has been deployed six times, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a humanitarian assistance operation in Haiti.
In addition to two Purple Heart awards and a Bronze Star, Rhyner received the Air Force Cross for his actions in the Battle of Shok Valley during the War in Afghanistan. He was the first living, and second ever, combat controller to receive the Air Force Cross, which is second only to the Medal of Honor for heroism in combat. He was injured in his most recent deployment, suffering nerve damage and shattering his hip, and is currently recovering.
Rhyner attended the game with his mother, Sue, his father, Paul and his brother, Luke.
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 2013 home game and recognize them on the field during pregame activities. A total of 64 families have been recognized with through 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 packers.com/gameday/gameday_promotions/operation_fan_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 receive four tickets to the game and a care package from WPS.