Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears
By Greg Bates
Special for Operation Fan Mail
All six times Adam Gossens was deployed overseas during his U.S. Army career, he always made sure he was able to watch his beloved Green Bay Packers games.
But it’s the one contest Gossens wasn’t able to watch that really stands out in his mind.
While the Packers were hosting the 2008 NFC championship game against the New York Giants, Gossens—a U.S. Army Sgt.—was en route to Manas Air Base in Afghanistan.
“I was in the plane, didn’t know the score. I’m losing it,” Gossens said. “We land in Kyrgyzstan because that was where they staged us before we went into Afghanistan. We land there, and we’re in, like, the in-processing tent. And right next door is the USO tent where they would show the games, and you could hear people just going nuts. I’m losing it because I can’t see what’s going on. Then I come out of the tent and everybody’s cussing. I was like, ‘What happened?’ It’s like, ‘Favre threw an interception in overtime.’ And I was like, ‘Uh. That’s the end of the Brett Favre era.’”
Even though he was nearly 7,000 miles from Lambeau Field, Gossens was a wreck over the Packers’ season-ending loss, coming up just shy of making it to the Super Bowl.
Always a Packers fan
That’s what Gossens’ fan status has been over the years with the Packers. He’ll live and die by his favorite team. Gossens spent 20 years in the U.S. Army, retiring in 2016 as a Sgt. First Class. He has always kept track of the Packers.
The 48-year-old is hoping the Packers will have a little better showing for him when he’s in attendance at this Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears. Gossens was chosen as the winner of the Operation Fan Mail program for this week’s home game and receives four tickets to the Packers game. The award is presented by WPS Health Solutions and the Packers.
Gossens, an Appleton native, is excited to be able to attend the storied rivalry between the Packers and the Bears.
“I don’t feel that I’m worthy of getting picked,” Gossens said. “I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but I’m pretty fired up, I can tell you that much.”
Gossens has been to about a dozen Packers games in his life, the last being Dec. 2, 2018, when the Packers lost to the lowly Arizona Cardinals. Mike McCarthy was fired hours after the game.
“There are three things in my life I get emotional about: my family, my buddies in the Army, and the Green Bay Packers,” said Gossens, who is proud to have one stock certificate and be an “owner” of the Packers. “Ever since I was a little kid, it was the local team. To be in such a small market and to have this professional team—I’m like British-soccer-fan crazy about it.
“My dad would actually ground me when I would just lose my stuff during games. He’d ground me from watching the next game and stuff like that; it’s like punishment. And this is back in the Lindy Infante and Forrest Gregg era when they sucked. I was always throwing tantrums and fits; I still do now.”
Prior to the Packers’ game Sunday, Gossens will be recognized on the field as the Operation Fan Mail honoree.
“I don’t know what to expect. I’m a little nervous, I guess,” Gossens said. “I don’t like being in front of (crowds).” He added, “I think it will be cool just being there for it.”
Getting honored in front of nearly 80,000 fans at Lambeau Field is a little out of Gossens’ element. He’s admittedly a shy guy who likes to stay out of the limelight.
“That’s just who I am,” Gossens said. “I’m not a big ‘look at me’ guy. I don’t like taking pictures. I’m just one of those types.
“My mother loves to show me off, but I don’t see what’s so special.”
Gossens’ mom, Margaret, is the person who nominated him for the Operation Fan Mail honor.
Margaret Gossens has always watched her son be a big Packers fan, even throughout his military days.
“From a little kid on, he had to have the Packer helmet,” Margaret Gossens said. “My father was a football coach, so he was big into football even as a little kid.”
His path into the Army
When Gossens graduated from Appleton East High School in 1992, he didn’t know quite what he wanted to do with his life.
While taking a history class in college, he read the book, “Band of Brothers.” That inspired him.
“I read that, and I was like, ‘Dang, I want to be a paratrooper in the Army,’” Gossens said. “I’ll do that. Make some money, take a break from school, and just kind of figure out what I wanted to do with life. That’s what made me join the Army.”
Gossens’ quick decision caught his family by surprise.
“He came home from college one day and said, ‘Mom, I joined the Army,’” Margaret Gossens recalled. “I was just floored. I said, ‘No, you’re not.’ He said, ‘I already did.’ I was upset, but I was proud because he is such a good kid, and I knew he would do a good job and be very conscientious in what he did.”
Gossens enlisted in 1995. He was deployed to Bosnia in 1998 into ’99, and later that year was deployed to Kosovo.
Gossens’ six-year enlistment ended in 2001 and he left the Army. About two weeks later, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks happened. That changed Gossens’ thought process.
He was working as a Dane County Sheriff’s Deputy, and he wasn’t too keen on being an officer. So, about a year after the terrorist attacks, Gossens had the desire to serve his country again, and he reenlisted in the Army.
“Kind of the reason that I really wanted to go back was right after 9/11 happened, the unit I was in when I had got out was the first military police company in Afghanistan,” Gossens said. “It was kind of like that you don’t want to let your buddies down. I felt like I’d abandoned them. I just wanted to go back and be part of that. Like they say, it’s always about the people. To me, those guys mean so much to me.”
“Two months after returning to the Army, Gossens was deployed to Afghanistan.
“When I went back in, I was like, ‘I’m doing 20 (years) now,’” Gossens said. “I’m going in, I’m just going to go in for the long haul.”
Gossens spent seven months in Afghanistan, came back to the United States for 10 months, and then was deployed to Iraq for one year. He returned to the U.S. for another 10 months and went back to Iraq for another year. He was back for about one year and then deployed for 15 months to Afghanistan.
“He was very quiet about what happened,” Margaret Gossens said. “He didn’t want his mother to know what he was going through.”
Gossens spent time all over during his military tenure, including Fort Leonard Wood (Missouri); Fort McClellan (Alabama) for training; Presidio of Monterey (California) for training; Fort Carson (Colorado), permanent duty station; Fort Bragg (North Carolina), spent 10 years for duty station; Sembach Air Base (near Kaiserslautern, Germany) for three years; and Fort Lewis (Washington) where he retired out of in ’16.
During his deployments, Gossens generally had access to watch all the Packers games at any time of day.
“I would wake up at 2 in the morning on a Monday morning, if it was the Monday night game or something like that,” Gossens said. “The Monday night game would start at like 2 in the morning in Germany, so I’d be dead that whole Monday. Even if they played the noon game, it came on at like 10 at night or something over there.”
With his 20 years of service in, Gossens retired in August 2016.
“It was time. I was ready to get out in 2014,” Gossens said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get promoted again, so I was like, time for me to go.”
While in the Army, Gossens received three bronze stars. His most distinguished award was a Commendation Medal with a “V” device.
Gossens’ wife, Maria, also served in the Army and retired as a master sergeant in 2012.
After the Army
After leaving the Army, Gossens and his family resided in Texas where he tried his hand in a few professions. He worked in HVAC for three years before moving to building maintenance for three years.
Putting in 20 years in the military meant a lot to Gossens and paved the way for many opportunities for him and his family.
“It gives me the flexibility to be like, I have a pension now,” he said. “Right now, I’m not working; I’m just going to school.
“I was living in Texas, and I was doing air conditioning and building maintenance in San Antonio. And then my dad got Alzheimer’s. I had the flexibility—both me and my wife are retired, so we both have pensions. We had the ability to just quit our jobs and come up here and find something.”
After all his military fights while overseas, Gossens is now helping with a bigger fight: his dad’s Alzheimer’s.
Gossens wanted to be involved in helping take care of his dad.
His mom couldn’t believe her son packed up his entire family and moved back to Appleton in June.
“He’s just that kind of kid,” Margaret Gossens said. “It’s meant the world to me.”
The appearance of U.S. military visual information does not imply or constitute endorsement by the U.S. military.