By Shane Fitzsimmons/Kris Leonhardt
Press Times staff
GREEN BAY – As part of their Salute to Service initiative, the Green Bay Packers hosted 56 military veterans along with Packers players on Oct. 31 for “Huddle for Heroes at The Turn.”
The event included a question and answer session led by Packers Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Chris Gizzi, a tour of Lambeau Field and letter writing for active service members
Participant Nancy Rivera of St. Nazianz served in the U.S. Army in military intelligence and was writing a letter to a fellow service member at the event.
“I started in Panama, Germany, Japan but I actually ended up in Afghanistan; that was my last tour,” the 30-year veteran stated.
“I just want to make sure that they know that we’re supporting them and also to keep their head on a swivel. You know a good Army term right — keep your head on a swivel — so important, especially if you’re deployed. So, I’m going to remind people of that and then also happy Veteran’s Day and happy holidays.”
Packers players participating in the event included Elgton Jenkins, Rasul Douglas, Kristian Welch, Sean Rhyan, Jon Runyan, Romeo Doubs and Lukas Van Ness.
Packers Running Back Aaron Jones was joined by his mother for the event.
“I wanted to come out here to see the veterans. You know, the military is really big to me. That was my whole upbringing, so the military means a lot to me. I wanted to show my appreciation to them —a sign of respect. Just to come in here spend time with them,” Jones explained.
“It was pretty cool to have my mom out here, to hear her speak to some of the veterans — see a different zone and all. I don’t get to see my mom around — I did when I was younger — around other soldiers. See them communicate, so it took me back to being a little kid seeing her back in her uniform.
“I think it’s powerful to hear everybody’s stories, let people know you’re not alone, that there are people here for them. You have people either going through the same things as they are going through or have gone through it and gotten passed it. Just to hear some of the stories, really it warms my heart.
“Like I said to hear my mom speak, to hear some of these other veteran speak and some of the things they may be dealing with, that’s real. Like my mom said, you go to war they don’t come back the same; that’s why you have support.”
Jones said that in his youth he had a very different understanding of what war was.
“At that age, you understand what they put in the textbooks and that’s like the Civil War, where they line up in front of each other and just shooting each other. You know that’s what you think is going on,” he recalled.
“As a kid I’m like, ‘Am I ever going to see my parents again?’ I hope they come back safe. It’s not like it is in today’s time. When we were in college; I say that because when we were in college my mom deployed, we were able to talk to her more. We had a phone — a land line — in our dorm room. She could call us, so we were able to talk to her more.
“But then, it was handwritten letters, a couple months without talking to them. So, it was just hard. But knowing what they instilled in us, God [and] family first. So, I had my twin brother; I had my older sister there; my family was there taking care of us too. So, that was just, some of the foundation that they taught us; it was huge to help us get through that.”