U.S. Air Force
Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings
By Greg Bates
Special for Operation Fan Mail
Dec. 22, 2002, is a day Ken Corry won’t ever forget.
He stood at the 50-yard line on Lambeau Field and was sworn into the United States Air Force.
Twenty years later—nearly to the day—Corry will be back standing on the “G” at midfield prior to the Green Bay Packers-Minnesota Vikings game.
Corry will be honored as a winner of the Operation Fan Mail program and received four tickets to the Jan. 1 game. The award is presented by WPS Health Solutions and the Green Bay Packers.
Being back out on field will be a special moment for Corry, who grew up rooting for the Packers in Marinette, Wis.
Corry was in the Air Force from 2003–14, and now works for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs as a training specialist in Green Bay.
“It’s going to be insane,” said the 39-year-old Corry. “It’s going to be mind-boggling, and I’m just blessed that I get to be there and have that opportunity.”
Corry will be bringing his “brothers”—all guys who served in the military—with him to the game. Shawn Simon, Michael Heidtman, and Alex Dvorak will all get to experience the special on-field moment with their friend.
Corry went through some traumatic experiences during his time in the Air Force, but the Packers have always been an escape for him. Corry is outside Lambeau Field prior to every Packers home game helping run the Veterans Tailgating Zone, which is near the Don Hutson Center.
“Right now, it brings me to my fellow brothers and sisters, because I get to look forward to going and tailgating with them every game at Lambeau Field,” Corry said. “We are tailgating at the Veterans Tailgating Zone, and I get to meet so many veterans that come in, hang out with them, talk with them, see where they’re from, and it just gives me that family feeling.
“When I was growing up with family, we’d watch football, we’d watch the Packers. Now to actually be living here in Green Bay, it’s amazing to have the opportunity that we get to experience this, and I have such a good group of people around, and I’m just so blessed that I get to do this every week.”
Rocky road in the Air Force
Corry has a long line of family members who have served in the military, so it was an avenue he was almost destined to follow.
His grandfather was in the Navy, his dad in the Army, and a number of uncles and cousins spent time in different branches of the military.
“I wasn’t stuck on the Army, per se, or the Navy or the Marines. I was thinking of myself; what is going to get me the furthest when I get out of the military,” Corry said. “I didn’t know where it was going to take me or any of that.”
Corry always wanted to be a police officer like his father, Joe. He decided joining the Air Force in security forces was a great route. After graduating from Crivitz High School in 2003, Corry was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for five months to undergo basic training and tech school.
Corry’s first assignment was at Beale Air Force Base in California in January 2004. He worked in security and protection level resources.
His first tour in August of that year took him to Kirkuk, Iraq, for nine months.
“What we did was entry control for the installation, so we searched all local nationals coming onto the base,” Corry said. “We secured the gates, we provided security for the base, so we stepped on the wire and provided security for that area called the Gulf Sector.”
He went to a specialty school called Mobile Vehicle and Cargo Inspections Systems.
Corry was sent on a second tour at the beginning of 2006 to Jacobabad, Pakistan. The two-month stint was a training mission with the Pakistanis.
He went back to Beale and decided to volunteer for a year-long mission—they picked 160 airmen from across the country—to go on tour.
“We were doing an in lieu of mission, so we were actually going to be doing an Army mission,” Corry said. “So, we went to Iraq doing an Army mission.”
He went to Fort Hood in Texas for over two months of training before leaving for Baghdad, Iraq, in November 2006.
“That was a long year; we lost a couple guys in our squadron,” Corry said. “I’d say I grew a lot there. … In the military, you were taught that if you ask for help, it was a sign of weakness. And prior to that, I’ve asked for help twice—and the two times I asked for help, my weapon was taken. I know things have changed before, but my weapon was taken, and I couldn’t work. So, I had to go talk to somebody in mental health. I didn’t feel like I could talk to anybody from the war experiences that happened. I was married at the time, and when I got back, I wasn’t really able to talk to anybody about the struggles I was going through with what war brings to you. It hurt our relationship, and it really ended our relationship.”
Corry had a six-month tour in Afghanistan that ended in November 2009. Two months later, he got out of the Air Force. During his 6.5 years in active service, he spent three years overseas. He moved back to Marinette to be near family and went into the Air Force Reserves for four years.
Corry’s time in the service was completed, but his journey was just beginning.
In 2010, Corry started going to college for business and jumped from UW-Marinette to UW-Green Bay. A couple years into schooling, Corry still struggled internally, and he didn’t know what he wanted to do for a career.
A girlfriend of Corry’s at the time had pushed him to get mental health help, but he resisted. It was only after his girlfriend left that Corry realized he needed to continue to receive help and he wanted to start doing work with different veterans groups.
“I transferred up to UW-Green Bay and there was not really a big presence of veterans on campus, and we didn’t have a lounge or anything or a place,” Corry said. “I became the president at UWGB for the student veterans, and we became a presence on campus. We did a bunch of stuff like dances, and we got student veteran chapter of the year through the Student Veterans of America. I went to the dean of students and the provost, then the chancellor, and I’m like, ‘Can we have a veterans lounge?’ I volunteered a semester to create a business plan, a communications plan, put together a strategic plan, all of it. I found the place. I found the space. I did research to figure out what works, what doesn’t work. And we got a place on campus. All that hard work came to fruition, and it happened. There’s a lot of good people that helped out with that, and I can’t be more grateful for that.”
Through the Adult Degree Program, Corry graduated from UW-Green Bay with an integrated leadership studies degree.
Corry got involved in as many activities as he could, including Old Glory Honor Flight, 4th HOOAH of Wisconsin, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Northeastern Wisconsin Bravo Company, Team One Mile, Honor and Valor NAMI, Brown County Housing and Homeless Coalition, and the Brown County Suicide Prevention Coalition and Veteran Suicide Prevention Task Force.
Being involved in activities kept Corry away from things that were bringing him down.
“I help out with so many different organizations that I just have a passion for, but the vets are really my passion,” Corry said.
Corry learned over the years that taking some responsibilities off his table is a good thing. He was so used to telling every organization he’d be happy to help them.
“There’s this thing you’ve got to learn how to say, eventually. It’s a two-letter word. It’s, ‘No,’” Corry said laughing. “My therapist has helped me with that. ‘Again, you have too much going on here. You’ve got to focus on the most important person in the world, and that’s you.’ That’s me, and I’ve got to take care of me, because I am the most important person, and I can only do good if I can take care of myself.”
Two months ago, Corry started working at the Milo C. Huempfner Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Green Bay. He trains new employees that are coming to work at the clinic.
Now that Corry has been out of the Air Force for nearly nine years, he’s starting to feel like he’s turned a corner in his life.
“I’m just building momentum,” Corry said. “I feel like the world is in front of me now. I don’t think it was there before when I was struggling with my mental health and my alcohol and my drinking. I kind of didn’t have a purpose and I wasn’t taking care of me. Now I am—I’m taking care of me, and the future’s in front of me.”
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