Food, fun and football link families with deployed soldiers
By Staff Sgt. Gretel Weiskopf 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs
(PRESS RELEASE) -- Families and friends of the Wisconsin National Guard gathered at the Alliant Energy Center Sunday (Oct. 18) to Tailgate with the Troops - the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, that is.
Thanks to modern technology and lots of community support, more than 2,000 family members feasted on brats, hot dogs, pizza and chips and watched the Green Bay Packers cream the Detroit Lions - with their deployed Soldiers.
The event, "Tailgating with the Troops" was sponsored by Serving the 32nd, a private organization whose mission is to bring together the people of Wisconsin to say "thank you" to the Soldiers and families of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
"It has been almost a year to the day that we started planning for this event," said Brian Hoag, project coordinator for Serving the 32nd. "We weren't sure if we could pull it off it, but we did and it was worth it." While originally focused on the 32nd Brigade, the tailgating party was open to family members of all deployed service members to thank them for their continued support and sacrifices. The thanks came in the form of financial and food donations and a formal program with remarks from Gov. Jim Doyle, Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, Green Bay Packers players and the Soldiers themselves.
"I want to thank each and every one of you," Col. Steve Bensend, 32nd Brigade commander, told the crowd from Iraq. "Your outpouring of support has been incredible ... and we appreciate it."
Members of the University of Wisconsin marching band and several entertainers also made appearances. But what was special about this tailgating party was the opportunity for families to use real-time video to connect with their Soldiers in Iraq.
"It was great to see him with such a good connection," said Melissa May, who chatted with her husband Sgt. Tobias May of the 32nd Military Police Company via Skype as did more than 1,000 of the families in attendance. "He was promoted earlier this week but waited to tell me today so he could see my face."
The event comes at a time when the Wisconsin Guard has about 3,700 Soldiers and Airmen deployed at various locations around the world.
"When we are home and living our everyday life you kind of feel like you are the only one going through this," Melissa said. "But here you can see just how many families have someone deployed."
"I think this is a fabulous event," agreed Heidi Nidy who came to Tailgating with the Troops with her two children to connect with her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Scott Nidy, stationed in Iraq with Company A, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry. "He feels like there is so little he can do [for us]; he is grateful that others are."
Also available at the event were resource booths featuring support and information resources veterans and families may need, as well as activities for children and young adults such as a climbing wall, poster making and much more.