Family’s call to duty honored by Packers

Saukville resident joined by children, daughter-in-law in salute at Lambeau Field

HONORED FOR THEIR military service during a pregame ceremony at Lambeau Field last Sunday were four members of the Cardarelle family. From left are Randy Cardarelle, his daughter Samantha, daughter-in-law Alyssa and son Vince.
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press Staff

Randy Cardarelle didn’t win the lottery last Sunday, but you would have thought he had when he stood on the grass at Lambeau Field before the Green Bay Packers’ playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Town of Saukville resident was joined by his daughter Samantha, his son Vince and Vince’s wife Alyssa, all of whom are veterans honored as part of the Packers’ Operation Fan Mail promotion.

“It felt like we just won the lottery. That’s exactly how it felt,” Cardarelle said Monday.

“The whole experience, to be there on the field in that atmosphere with the crowd and energy  — it’s hard to put into words. It was kind of a jackpot experience.”

Operation Fan Mail is a promotion that honors a veteran or active member of the military and their family at each home game. Besides getting four tickets to the game, the veterans are recognized on the field prior to the game.

To be chosen, families submit a 500-word essay on why a particular fan should be saluted.

It was Cardarelle’s daughter-in-law Alyssa who submitted the essay.

“She wondered how that happened, so she just Googled it one day a few weeks ago and the Packers got hold of her and told her to submit a biography,” he said.

In most cases, it’s a single veteran who is honored, accompanied by family members.

“This is the first time that they had a whole family of military at one time. Usually it’s just one member,” Cardarelle  said.

Randy, 61, served in the Air Force from 1976 to 1980, primarily stationed at K.I. Sawyer Air Force in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, working as a B-52 mechanic.

Samantha, who lives in South Milwaukee, is an E-3 airman first class, serving as an in-flight refueler for the Wisconsin Air National Guard.

Vince served in the Air Force for six years and was deployed overseas to the Middle East as an air traffic controller in 2017. 

Alyssa also served in the Air Force for six years, working as an in-flight medic and EMT, and was deployed as part of a humanitarian mission to Central America. She was named Airman of the Year in 2013, and Flight Medicine Technician of the Year in 2014.

A Lewiston, Idaho, native, she and Vince live in Colgate.

The family’s military tradition goes further back as Randy’s father was a Marine who served during the Korean War and was awarded the Purple Heart.

Samantha, 32, an Ozaukee High School graduate who plans on making a career in the military, said her father’s and grandfather’s military service was something she and her siblings were aware of growing up.

“Basically, it’s always been a dream of mine to wear the uniform,” she said.

In addition, Randy’s son-in-law, Tyler, who is married to Randy’s daughter Claire, was a Marine. Claire and his other daughter, Maranda, live in Middleton.

The entire family attended Sunday’s game.

The family has had season tickets since 1989 — four seats in the north end zone. For Sunday’s game, the Packers gave them four seats at midfield.

“What a difference,” Randy said.

He said the experience was one to remember.

“They went out of their way to make sure our experience was the best ever,” he said. 

This wasn’t the first encounter the family has had with the Packers organization.

When Vince was deployed overseas, he contacted the team and they sent footballs used in practices, hats, towels and other gear.

“It was just this outpouring of stuff,” Randy said. 

Asked how he thinks the Packers will do against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in the NFC championship game, Randy paused and said, “Let’s say the Packers are going to win.”

For more information on Operation Fan Mail, go to packers.com/lambeau-field/operation-fan-mail.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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