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Joe Cardona announced as one of three finalists for Salute to Service Award

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The NFL and USAA, an Official NFL Salute to Service Partner, announced AMB Sports and Entertainment CEO STEVE CANNON, New England Patriots Long Snapper JOE CARDONA, andSan Francisco 49ers General Manager and NFL Legend JOHN LYNCH as the finalists for the tenth annual Salute to Service Award presented by USAA.

Cannon, Cardona, and Lynch were selected for their exceptional efforts to honor and support members of the military community. The Salute to Service Award recipient will be recognized at NFL Honors, a primetime awards special to air nationally the Saturday before Super Bowl LV.

USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, will contribute $25,000 in the award recipient's honor to the official aid societies representing all five military branches. The NFL will match USAA's donation of $25,000, which will be donated to the award recipient's military charity of choice. The award recipient will receive a specially designed military challenge coin, recognizing their commitment to the military. In what has become a long-standing tradition, challenge coins are presented to members of the military community to encourage excellence, boost morale or to recognize a fellow brother- or sister-in-arms.

"America's military community is stronger thanks to the service and support from all three worthy finalists for tenth annual 'Salute to Service Award presented by USAA,'" said Vice Admiral (Ret.) JOHN BIRD, USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs. "While two of this year's finalists served our nation in uniform, this award is meant to highlight efforts we can all make to support America's military community. We thank and appreciate Steve, Joe, and John for joining USAA in always honoring and serving our military, veterans, and their families."

The Salute to Service Award is part of the NFL and USAA's year-round commitment to recognize and honor the military community. This season, all 32 NFL clubs nominated coaches, active and retired players, and team executives and personnel, who best demonstrated support for the military community.

These nominees were announced in November and the submissions were evaluated by a panel of judges, including last year's award recipient, Los Angeles Chargers Legend DONNIE EDWARDS. Nominees' credentials are evaluated based on the positive effect of the individual's efforts on the military community, the type of service conducted, the thoroughness of the program and level of commitment.

The panel of judges, consisting of representatives from the U.S. military, the NFL and USAA, includes:

  • VICE ADMIRAL JOHN BIRD (Ret.), U.S. Navy veteran, USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs
  • LENNY BANDY, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and NFL Vice President of Security
  • CHAD HENNINGS, Air Force Academy graduate, three-time Super Bowl champion
  • DONNIE EDWARDS, 2019 Salute to Service Award recipient
  • JIM MORA, SR., Marine Corps veteran, former NFL head coach
  • VINCENT JACKSON, NFL Legend & 2015 Salute to Service Award recipient

Since 2011, USAA has used its sponsorship to honor and appreciate active-duty military, veterans and their families by creating unique opportunities that bring the military community and the NFL closer together. Fans can join the NFL and USAA in honoring the military community by visiting NFL.com/Salute.

Below is the list of previous Salute to Service Award recipients.

Table inside Article
YEAR RECIPIENT TEAM
2019 Donnie Edwards Los Angeles Chargers
2018 Ben Garland Atlanta Falcons
2017 Andre Roberts Atlanta Falcons
2016 Dan Quinn (Head Coach) Atlanta Falcons
2015 Vincent Jackson Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2014 Jared Allen Chicago Bears
2013 John Harbaugh (Head Coach) Baltimore Ravens
2012 Charles Tillman Chicago Bears
2011 K.S. "Bud" Adams Jr. (Late Owner) Tennessee Titans

Below is an overview on the three finalists. To learn more about all 32 team nominees, please visit www.nfl.com/salute.

STEVE CANNON (CEO, AMB Sports and Entertainment)

Cannon's commitment to the military and related causes began with his own personal commitment. Cannon, who graduated with honors from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1986, was Airborne Ranger qualified and served as a 1st Lieutenant in West Germany during the fall of the Iron Curtain. During his time in the Army, he also served five years as an artillery officer. Through Cannon's countless hours of service to multiple military non-profits over the years, his constant "military first" mindset and utilization of the NFL's platform has provided active duty service members, veterans and military families with first class experiences and support. In addition to empowering and giving back to the military community, Cannon has played a large role in bringing awareness to the general population on the importance of honoring and recognizing our nation's heroes. Through Cannon's military and professional career, he has consistently found ways to implement programs in service to our military, active duty specifically. Upon joining the Atlanta Falcons organization, he realized the impact of the NFL platform and challenged the Club to be "best in class" and to "become the benchmark franchise in all of professional sports" in terms of our military outreach and appreciation. With that challenge, he began to set up major trips each spring following the conclusion of football season that would allow him and the team to get up close and personal with those serving to protect our freedom. And with that, the Atlanta Falcons became the first ever NFL team to conduct their own USO Tour.

JOE CARDONA (Long Snapper, New England Patriots)

Joe Cardona attended the Naval Academy for four years prior to his 2015 rookie season where he was an Ensign in the Navy and worked as a staff officer at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island. That season, he was working his second job four days a week, which included a 24-hour shift during the team's "day off." In 2017, Joe was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade and served as a junior commissioned officer in the United States Navy and in 2019, Joe was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the Navy. He proudly wears his Naval uniform as the team boards the plane for away games. Joe has facilitated more than a dozen re-enlistment and retirement ceremonies at Gillette Stadium for fellow military members. He also led a handful of free football clinics for military children at military bases across New England and replaced military family toys that were burned in a fire three years ago at Joint Base Cape Cod. In 2017, Joe rallied teammates and coaches to each donate a pair of tickets to their game against Atlanta and over 150 military members, who had recently returned from deployment, were invited to the game and participated in a special pregame ceremony. Each year during Memorial Day weekend, Joe helps plant more than 37,000 American flags in the Boston Common to honor the brave men and women from Massachusetts that have lost their lives defending our country. Joe also offers his support to the Travis Manion Foundation, a nonprofit that empowers veterans and families of fallen heroes to develop character in future generations.

JOHN LYNCH (NFL Legend & General Manager, San Francisco 49ers)

Lynch has a longstanding appreciation for the United States military. Both his grandfather and great uncle volunteered for the Army the day after the deadly attacks on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Since 1998, Lynch has frequented various Air Force bases and military hospitals to personally thank those serving in the military, in Florida, Maryland and Colorado.  Lynch was also the recipient of the 2006 Bart Starr Award. Every year since 2011, he has hosted military families at the annual Lynch Christmas Party and each holiday season with the 49ers, he hosts military families and underserved youth for a holiday party and practice visit. In 2018 and 2019, Lynch welcomed more than 250 active duty troops and veterans for a VIP training camp practice experience. In November 2017, Lynch spearheaded a visit to the USO office at the San Jose Military Entrance Processing Station to congratulate newly enlisted recruits heading off to basic training. In October 2019, Lynch welcomed a group of decorated veterans, including 5 purple heart recipients, when the 49ers played in Washington, D.C. Lynch's commitment to supporting veteran organizations, like USO Bay Area, has driven a close partnership with the nonprofit and the 49ers, which has led to new opportunities to support the troops and their families with game tickets, Salute to Service program involvement, choosing USO Bay Area as the 50/50 raffle beneficiary for the 2019 Salute to Service game, and delivering care kits to isolated troops in partnership with USAA during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ABOUT USAA: The USAA family of companies provides insurance, banking, investments, retirement products and advice to more than 13 million current and former members of the U.S. military and their families. Known for its legendary commitment to its members, USAA is consistently recognized for outstanding service, employee well-being and financial strength. USAA membership is open to all who are serving our nation in the U.S. military or have received a discharge type of Honorable – and their eligible family members. Founded in 1922, USAA is headquartered in San Antonio. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.

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