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Tailgating with the Troops

Photo by Brian Bull

MADISON -- Hundreds of families streamed into Madisons' Veterans Memorial Coliseum Sunday for a first-of-its kind tailgating party.

Football fans both in Wisconsin -- and stationed overseas in Iraq -- caught the Packers-Lions game together, through a simulcast satellite uplink.

Green and gold Packers wear met mottled gray and tan combat fatigues, through large TV monitors that showed Wisconsin residents on one side of "the pond", and members of the 32nd Infantry Battallion on the other.

If the soldiers looked a bit bleary-eyed, it was because of the eight hour time difference which had them staying up past 11 p.m. locally in Iraq.

Sarah Green of Madison has a husband, Nathaniel, in Iraq. She and her daughter, Alison, 8, hope to see him back in February.

Green says events like these help with the wait. She says it makes the time go by faster.

During the Packers-Lion game, troops were able to do live "shout outs" to their Wisconsin families and friends. There was even a surprise marriage proposal.

Brian Hoag organized "Tailgating with the Troops." He says its great technology allowed such intimate rapport between soldiers and home.

He notes such an event wouldn't have been possible three years ago.

Hoag says many of the soldiers are in their second, third or fourth deployment, so they've been away from each other for several years.

It didn't hurt that the Packers shut out the Lions, 26-0.

But Hoag says the main thing was to give troops in Iraq a good time with their loved ones, as they begin the final months of their deployment.