NEW YORK (AP) — San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona, and Atlanta Falcons executive Steve Cannon are finalists for the NFL Salute to Service Award.
Now in its 10th year, the award recognizes exceptional efforts to honor and support members of the military community. It will be presented Feb. 6, the night before the Super Bowl, at NFL Honors, when The Associated Press announces its individual NFL awards.
USAA, a 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.
Lynch, a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the eighth time, has visited various Air Force bases and military hospitals for the past two decades to thank those serving in the military. Since 2011, he has hosted military families at an annual Christmas party. In 2018 and 2019, Lynch welcomed more than 250 active duty troops and veterans for a VIP training camp practice experience.
Lynch also has welcomed a group of decorated veterans, including five purple heart recipients, when the 49ers played in Washington. He's been involved in delivering care kits to isolated troops in partnership with USAA during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cannon, the CEO of AMB Sports and Entertainment, graduated with honors from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1986. He was an Airborne Ranger, also spending five years as an artillery officer. Upon joining the Falcons organization, he challenged the club to be “best in class” and to “become the benchmark franchise in all of professional sports” for military outreach and appreciation. Cannon has arranged major trips each spring to mingle with military members, and the Falcons became the first NFL team to conduct their own USO Tour.
Cardona attended the Naval Academy for four years, becoming an ensign in the Navy and working as a staff officer at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island. In 2017, he was promoted to lieutenant junior grade and served as a junior commissioned officer in the Navy, and in 2019 was promoted to lieutenant. Cardona wears his Naval uniform as the team boards planes for away games. He has facilitated more than a dozen re-enlistment and retirement ceremonies at Gillette Stadium for fellow military members; led free football clinics for military children at bases across New England; and replaced military family member's toys that were burned in a fire three years ago at Joint Base Cape Cod.
Each year during Memorial Day weekend, Cardona helps plant more than 37,000 American flags in the Boston Common to honor those from Massachusetts that lost their lives defending this country.
Former Los Angeles Charger Donnie Edwards, the 2020 recipient, is on the judging panel along with Vice Admiral John Bird (Retired); Lenny Bandy, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and NFL vice president of security; Chad Hennings, an Air Force Academy graduate and three-time Super Bowl champion; Jim Mora, a Marine Corps veteran and former NFL head coach; and ex-NFL player Vincent Jackson, the 2015 Salute to Service Award recipient.
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