NEW YORK – Feb. 7, 2024 – The NFL and USAA, an official NFL Salute to Service Partner, named Joe Cardona, long snapper for the New England Patriots, as the recipient of the 2023 Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. The award recognizes the exceptional efforts by members of the NFL family to honor and support the military community.
Cardona will be recognized at NFL Honors, a primetime awards special to air nationally on the CBS Television Network and NFL Network, and stream on Paramount+ and NFL+ on Thursday, Feb. 8 at the Resorts World Theatre in Las Vegas. USAA, a leading provider of insurance, banking and other financial services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, will contribute $25,000 in Cardona's honor to the official aid societies representing each of the military branches. The NFL Foundation will match USAA's donation of $25,000, which will be donated to Cardona's military charity of choice.
"Joe Cardona represents the epitome of the NFL's Salute to Service Award," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "His commitment to honoring, empowering, and connecting with the military community as an active service member, while also dedicated to his Patriots teammates, truly sets him apart. He is the true embodiment of what it means to be an American hero. The entire NFL family salutes Joe for his service to our country and congratulates him as the recipient of this important award."
"Upon his graduation from the Naval Academy, Lieutenant Joe Cardona has continued to serve his country while also playing in the NFL, and we are honored to name him the recipient of this year's Salute to Service Award presented by USAA," said Major General (Ret.) Bob Whittle, USAA Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff. "USAA salutes Lieutenant Cardona for his continued service to our country as well as his exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting his fellow service members, veterans
, and their families."
Cardona exemplifies a spirit of unwavering dedication in his support for America's military community. His journey began at the United States Naval Academy as a football player, but his aspirations extended far beyond the field. During his rookie season with the Patriots, Cardona displayed exceptional dedication by balancing a second full-time job in the Navy serving as a staff officer at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island. His hard work and commitment were recognized in 2017 when he was promoted to lieutenant junior grade (LTJG), subsequently serving in US Forces Korea, supporting the on-going effort on the Korean Peninsula. In 2019, Joe's dedication culminated in his promotion to the rank of lieutenant in the Navy. Currently, as a department head of Maritime Security Squadron 8, headquartered in Newport, RI, Joe oversees the logistical needs of 500 sailors across the eastern seaboard.
Throughout his nine seasons in the NFL, Cardona has consistently engaged in initiatives aimed at celebrating and honoring active-duty service members and veterans. He has donated items to help military families impacted by natural disasters and led free football clinics for military children at bases across New England. Cardona recently joined the board of the Military Family Advisory Network, a nonprofit organization that provides vital support to military families facing hardships. Additionally, Joe has partnered with the New England Center and Home for Veterans, an organization that looks to serve our nation's most at risk veterans, providing shelter, medical care, occupational services and much more. In 2018, Joe Cardona was honored with the Patriots Ron Burton Community Service Award, an accolade given to honor his work in the community.
Cardona's support extends to organizations like the Travis Manion Foundation, dedicated to empowering veterans and families of fallen heroes and events like the Brothers of Life that brings together Americans and Israeli wounded soldiers. As a service member, Joe has presided over more than a dozen re-enlistment and retirement ceremonies at Gillette Stadium, even donning his own uniform to lead some proceedings. In every aspect of his life, Joe Cardona exemplifies what it means to make a meaningful difference both on and off the field, embodying the values of service, sacrifice, and community.
"It is a tremendous honor to receive the NFL Salute to Service Award. I am thankful to the New England Patriots organization for accommodating my military service and I hope to be a model for future players who wish to serve," said Joe Cardona. "I appreciate the partnership between the NFL and our military and the role I have been able to play in it. On the field, I hope to represent the fighting spirit of our veterans, as well as my brothers and sisters in arms whom I serve alongside today. I am proud to be the son of Patrick Cardona, a 24-year Navy veteran, and Margeret Cardona, who embodies the strength and selflessness of a military spouse. I am proud to be an Officer in the United States Navy and player in the NFL; with or without recognition I will continue to do my job."
Returning this year, fans helped choose the three finalists, determined by a consensus fan vote, an NFL internal committee and USAA. Nominees were evaluated on the positive effect of their efforts on the military community, the type of service conducted, the thoroughness of their support and level of commitment. This year's other finalists included Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones and San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle.
The panel of judges, consisting of representatives from the U.S. military community, the NFL and USAA, who helped determine the Salute to Service Award recipient this year included Chad Hennings, Air Force Academy graduate and three-time Super Bowl champion; Jim Mora, Sr., Marine Corps veteran and former NFL head coach; Lenny Bandy, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and NFL Vice President of Security; Major General (Ret.) Robert Whittle, USAA Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff; and Ron Rivera, former NFL head coach and 2022 Salute to Service Award recipient.
Below is the list of previous Salute to Service Award recipients:
|Ron Rivera, Former Head Coach
|Andrew Beck, Current Player
|Steve Cannon, Vice Chairman, AMB Sports + Entertainment
|Donnie Edwards, Former Player
|Los Angeles Chargers
|Ben Garland, Former Player
|Andre Roberts, Former Player
|Dan Quinn, Former Head Coach
|Vincent Jackson, Late Player
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|Jared Allen, Former Player
|John Harbaugh, Head Coach
|Charles Tillman, Former Player
|K.S. “Bud” Adams Jr., Late Owner
The Salute to Service Award is part of the NFL and USAA's year-round commitment to recognize and honor the military community. Fans can join the NFL and USAA in honoring the military community by visiting NFL.com/Salute.
Salute to Service
Salute to Service is the NFL's year-long initiative to honor, empower, and connect our nation's service members, veterans, and their families. Since 2011, this effort has raised more than $66 million for military and veteran support organizations such as the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF), Pat Tillman Foundation (PTF), Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), United Service Organizations (USO) and Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). For more information on Salute to Service, visit NFL.com/Salute.
Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking and investment and retirement solutions to more than 13 million members of the U.S. military, veterans who have honorably served and their families. Headquartered in San Antonio, USAA has offices in seven U.S. cities and three overseas locations and employs more than 37,000 people worldwide. Each year, the company contributes to national and local nonprofits in support of military families and communities where employees live and work. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.