The Raiders recognized veterans (left to right): Eldon Brodie, Dale Berven, Tommie Simpson, Joe Leather, Bill Callahan and Rich Radigonda. Photo by Tony Gonzales
The National Football League is continuing its long history of honoring veterans and active duty members of the military with its new annual "Salute to Service" campaign that will occur each November.
The "Salute to Service" campaign is designed to unify and elevate the extensive military appreciation work of the NFL and its clubs. In addition to Raiders players T Jared Veldheer and DE Mason Brodine's visit to the Palo Alto VA Health Care System's Spinal Cord Injury and Poly Trauma Units on November 1, the Raiders designated their Week 9 game against the Broncos at O.co Coliseum as their special military appreciation game. During the game, the Raiders displayed "Salute to Service" banners on their sidelines, in addition to hosting ceremonies honoring the service and sacrifice of our nation's troops.
The USAF Band of the Golden West Ceremonial Marching Band from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., performed the National Anthem, while veterans and active duty members of the military unfurled the American flag. The Honeybee Trio, a musical group closely associated with Travis Air Force Base, performed for the crowd. Additionally, Retired Army Staff Sergeant Ron Milton, Retired Marine Corporal Matthew Hanson, Navy LT Josh Kaiser, Air Force First Lieutenant Christina Prejean and U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Joseph Castillo represented the veterans and active duty members of the military.
The Raiders also recognized veterans on the field prior to kickoff. Eldon Brodie, a Navy gunner who served onboard the USS Catskill during WWII; Dale Berven, a US Navy jet fighter pilot who fought in the Korean War; Tommie Simpson, a WWII Pharmacist Mate First Class at Oak Knoll Hospital in Oakland; Joe Leather, who served in the Navy from 1952-1956 onboard the USS Philippine Sea (CV 47) in Korea and onboard the USS Hornet; Bill Callahan, who served in the US Air Force in the Korean War and Cold War; and Rich Radigonda, who was in the U.S. Navy Reserve in high school and active duty in 1957 where he was stationed aboard the USS Ticonderoga CVA 14 during the Vietnam War.
In addition, the NFL and USAA are launching the inaugural "Salute to Service" Award which will recognize NFL team representatives who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community. USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other services to members of the U.S. military and their families, is the NFL's first Official Military Appreciation Sponsor.
The "Salute to Service" campaign aligns with the NFL's long history of supporting America's armed services, including a partnership of more than 45 years with the USO that includes overseas visits to troops and trips to military hospitals nationwide.
The NFL also works closely with the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization that honors and empowers wounded warriors. This past offseason, former NFL players and coaches climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro alongside four wounded warriors as part of the Wounded Warrior Project's "Believe in Heroes" initiative.
In 2010, the NFL and Pat Tillman Foundation established the NFL-Tillman Military Scholar award to annually honor an individual who exemplifies Pat's enduring legacy of service. The scholarship is part of the Tillman Military Scholars program established by the Pat Tillman Foundation to support educational opportunities for veterans and active service members and their spouses. The Tillman Military Scholars program covers direct study-related expenses such as tuition and books, as well as other basic needs such as housing and childcare.
Navy Petty Officer Third Class D'onior Felton of Clarksdale, Miss., has been selected as the 2011 NFL-Tillman Military Scholar. She will be recognized in December at a Washington Redskins game. Felton, who is currently a medical student at George Washington University, earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland while serving on active duty.
USAA will work with several teams during Veterans Day weekend to honor the men and women who have served and are serving in the U.S. military. Kicking off at the Chargers-Raiders game in San Diego on November 10 and closing with Monday Night Football in Green Bay on November 14, NFL fans at these games will participate in an in-stadium card stunt to thank our nation's military for their service. All fans will be able to visit www.usaa.com/nfl to download photos to share with and thank veterans and military members.
Additional "Salute to Service" moments will include recognition of all military personnel in attendance and on-field ceremonies honoring service men and women.
The NFL continues to offer its Game Pass HD service free of charge at USO Centers for military members stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Germany, Italy, Korea and Japan. At the USO facility in each of these locations, service members can watch every NFL game live and online in its entirety. Game Pass HD service also is offered free of charge at US Embassies.
The NFL's work with the military extends to the area of health and safety. Members of the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee are collaborating with Department of Defense physicians on medical research and helmet technologies aimed at protecting both athletes and service members from head injury.