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Patriots to honor veterans and active duty military at Lions game

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The Kraft family and the New England Patriots will thank the real patriots among us when they honor veterans and active duty military members with a number of game day activities at Gillette Stadium as part of the team's 2014 Salute to Service game against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, Nov. 23. The activities are in recognition of Veterans Day and a part of the NFL's Salute to Service campaign and the Patriots Charitable Foundation's week-long veteran and military volunteerism initiative.

In a pregame ceremony, Patriots Cheerleaders and members of the organization will join veterans and active duty military members to unfurl three American flags on the field. The United States Marine Corps out of Fort Devens, Mass., will present the colors, and the Massachusetts Army National Guard Voices of Freedom will perform the national anthem. At the end of the national anthem, two F-15C fighter jets from the 104th Fighter Wing, 131st Fighter Squadron will fly over Gillette Stadium. The fighter jets will take off from Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Mass.

Retiring United States Air Force Brigadier General William Thornton and United States Marine Corps Major Warren Graham will serve as the game's honorary captains and participate in the pregame coin toss.

Thirty-four Patriots players have family ties to the military and several will be honored during the game, including defensive back Devin McCourty's brother, long snapper Danny Aiken's brother and defensive tackle Chris Jones' wife. Additionally, all servicemen and women will be asked to stand and be recognized and the crowd will have an opportunity to sing along to "God Bless America." There will also be live look-ins on the stadium's video boards throughout the game of troops watching and cheering on the Patriots from Kuwait.

In the second quarter, the Patriots will honor Army Captain Justin Fitch, who has devoted himself to saving veterans' lives through the work of the Carry the Fallen group, which helps prevent veteran suicides. Capt. Fitch, who is dying of cancer, struggled with suicidal thoughts, even before his cancer diagnosis. He overcame those struggles and works with veterans through the Carry the Fallen group to help them overcome their own struggles. For more about Capt. Fitch's story, visit boston.cbslocal.com/2014/09/16/army-captain-battling-cancer-takes-on-veteran-suicides/.

The Patriots will also honor Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts, of Nashua, N.H., who received the Medal of Honor for distinguishing himself by extraordinary acts of heroism at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Forward Observer in 2d Platoon, Chosen Company, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment, 173d Airborne Brigade, during combat operations against an armed enemy in Afghanistan on July 13, 2008. Staff Sgt. Pitts was awarded the Medal of Honor during a White House ceremony on July 21, 2014.

Staff Sgt. Pitts' courage, steadfast commitment to the defense of his unit and ability to fight while seriously wounded prevented enemy forces from overrunning his observation post and capturing fallen American soldiers. To read more about Staff Sgt. Pitts' heroic acts, visit www.army.mil/medalofhonor/pitts/profile/index.html.

The United States Marine Corps' Silent Drill Platoon will perform at halftime.

Sunday's game is the culmination of the Patriots Charitable Foundation's week-long focus on veteran and military volunteerism and is part of the NFL's annual Salute to Service campaign. As part of the NFL initiative, the league will donate $100 for every point scored during its 32 designated Salute to Service games to its non-profit military partners – the Pat Tillman Foundation, the USO and Wounded Warrior Project.

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