Giving back: Former Packers receiver helps make holidays brighter for military families

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- On this Memorial Day -- as we recognize those who have given so much for the country, we go back a few months. Former Packers receiver Bill Schroeder was one of several people who helped to make Christmas magical for wounded warriors.

In 2001, former Packers speedster Bill Schroeder led the National Football Conference in yards per catch.

These days, he's an athletic trainer at Don Beebe's House of Speed in Green Bay.

Around Christmas, the man who made a living as a receiver was giving -- signing Packers footballs for three local military families.

"I am very blessed to have played for the Green Bay Packers -- the greatest sports franchise in history -- but I would never put myself in the category of a hero. I might be a celebrity to people -- but the heroes are people who put their lives on the line," Schroeder said.

In addition to footballs, the military families were given a dinner -- prepared with all the fixings -- courtesy of Tommy Kraus, the owner of Emily's Restaurant in Slinger. He had it in his heart to honor our country's heroes months ago.

"Today was an emotional day for me. My grandfather was a World War II vet. To be a part of these guys today -- these soldiers that have protected us -- to be able to go into these families and just say 'thank you' for what they've sacrificed and what they've done for us," Kraus said.

Chris Kroer served in the Wisconsin Army National Guard in Sussex.

After being deployed, he suffered back and rotator cuff injuries and was eventually medically discharged.

A husband and father of two young daughters, Chris and his mother were preparing to join the family for Christmas when FOX6 News caught up with them.

"It's just amazing. I didn't expect this kind of a turnout. I really didn't expect this. I just want to say thank you to everybody and just that I love veterans as well," Chris Kroer said.

"He's a hero to me. All of those men serving out there are heroes. My heart goes out to their families because it's tough when they're away. You keep them in your prayers and God-willing they will all come home safe," Kroer's mother said.

The next stop was at the Waukesha home of Mario Davis and his family -- including wife Carissa, son Braxton and daughter Grace.

Davis -- a staff sergeant in the Army, who served a tour in Afghanistan and two in Iraq was just 27 when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. He had hoped to serve 20 years -- but only made 11.

"I love my infantry brothers and I love my job. I would give anything to be out there again -- to be on the front lines," Mario Davis said.

"It's probably one of the best feelings in the world -- knowing that he's safe and he's alive. He came back with injuries, per se, but he's here," Mario's wife, Carissa said.

The final stop was in Waukesha -- at the home of Tony and Carrie Broussard.

Carrie is blind -- but her sweet, bubbly personality lit up the entire home.

Tony Broussard served in Vietnam.

Having lost both of his legs, Tony Broussard doesn't get out much. But his powerful grip and the sparkle in his eyes tell you he's full of life -- and he'd make the sacrifice all over again.

"As a matter of fact, I sure would. Because it's the greatest country in the world," Tony Broussard said.

"It's very emotional. I got choked up a couple of times. You imagine the position that they're in, and then to have someone show up and show their support for them -- I guess that was the best part about it -- just to be able to give back to them for everything they did,"

The stop at the Broussard's was complete when Carrie called her father in Michigan. He's a 79-year-old former Marine who still runs five miles a day -- something Bill Schroeder could relate to from his days as a track star at UW-La Crosse.

At the end of the day, a few of those who visited the military families reflected on the meaning of the experience.

"It just means so much -- that it's not just about your family. It is about everybody's family,"

"It is good to carry your brothers -- whether they're your generation, whether you served with them or not -- especially when it's something near and dear to your heart, like all these guys,"

"I'd rather give than receive -- and these guys have given the ultimate sacrifice -- and I think it's time for us to give to them too,"

If you're interested in reaching out to or donating to the wounded warriors and their families, CLICK HERE to learn more about the Wounded Warrior Project.