11/24/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/24/2021 11:43
Born in California. Moved to Parchment, Michigan, at age 11. Joined the Army at age 21 and served in Alaska and Afghanistan. Now living in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Gauge Hunter is finally close to the Green Bay Packers he has loved his entire life.
"I was born into a Packers family," Gauge explains. "Dad was a Packers fan, and when he married my mom, she ended up becoming one as well. So, there were no other options when I was born." He says over the years, he tried to persuade girlfriends to be Packers fans but didn't have much success. Then he met Alli, a Packers fan. "I said if I ever found a girl who was a Packers fan, I'd marry her. And I sure did!"
When Gauge found out Operation Fan Mail selected him for recognition, he was stunned.
"I was speechless, to be honest," he says. "It is still surreal to me."
Alli, now Gauge's wife, and his daughter were both very excited. "My wife kept saying it couldn't have happened to a better person." On a scale of 1-10, "they are maxed out at a 10!" he says.
Gauge attended the Packers game with Alli, his sister Lindsey, and his brother-in-law Fred. His dog, named Lambeau, did not get to go.
The Operation Fan Mail experience at Lambeau Field left an impression. "Having 78,000 people cheer for you is humbling," he says. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." He says he really enjoyed the $150 gift card for the Packers Pro Shop, provided by WPS.
Gauge joined the Army in 2012 because he wanted a fresh start. He had a dead-end job and wanted a change of scenery. He went to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for basic training.
After that, he was assigned to the 23rd Engineer Company (Sappers) based in Fort Richardson, Alaska. The joint base housed both Army and Air Force personnel. The natural beauty of Alaska made an impression on Gauge, especially in contrast to the heat of Afghanistan.
In May 2014, Gauge deployed to eastern Afghanistan to do route clearance work. This dangerous job involved a convoy of trucks with personnel assigned to search high-traffic roads for improvised explosive devices or IEDs. When an IED was found, the team would either disarm them or blow them up where they were found.
"You know what you're doing is really dangerous, but it has to be done," he says of the experience.
Route clearance work is performed either mounted or dismounted. "Mounted" means using the trucks only. "Dismounted" refers to the team getting out of the trucks and using hand-held tools to search for IEDs. "Both have their pros and cons," Gauge says.
Five months into the deployment, Gauge's truck was hit with an IED while on a mission. While no one died in the incident, it effectively ended his military career. After that deployment, he was medically retired due to the injuries received in that attack.
Gauge says, "Serving my country was one of my greatest honors. The pain I live with every day from that deployment will be with me forever, but if I had to do it all over again, I would."
After leaving the Army in 2016, Gauge and his wife discussed where to go. They decided on Oshkosh mostly because it was close to Lambeau Field.
Today, at 30 years old, Gauge is retired from the military. He works as a barber and continues to watch every Packers game with his family.
"The last five years here have been amazing, and I can honestly say watching the Packers on Sundays helps take the pain and suffering away."
Operation Fan Mail recognizes military families and veterans at each Packers home game. The program marks its 15th season in 2021. Gauge Hunter and his family are the 142nd honorees of the program, sponsored by WPS Health Solutions and the Green Bay Packers.
Read about past Operation Fan Mail honorees here:
The Packers and WPS Health Solutions invite interested families, or friends of eligible families, to submit an essay, 500 words or less, on why a particular family deserves a salute this year. Possible honoree families must have a member serving on active duty, or a member who is a veteran. The family member can be a spouse, mother, father, son, daughter, or sibling.
Essays can be sent to Operation Fan Mail, P.O. Box 10628, Green Bay, WI, 54307-0628 or online at operationfanmail.com.
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