LAS VEGAS – New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona was named the winner of the Salute to Service Award on Wednesday and will be recognized for his support in the U.S. military community.
Cardona played football at the U.S. Naval Academy and balanced playing for the Patriots and serving as a staff officer at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island. He would go on to serve in United States Forces Korea and eventually earned the rank of lieutenant. He is now the head of Maritime Security Squadron 8 and oversees logistics for 500 sailors on the eastern seaboard.
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Cardona’s service to his community extended beyond serving in the military. He has helped military families impacted by natural disasters and partnered with the New England Center and Home for Veterans, which lends a helping hand to the most vulnerable veterans in the U.S. It only scratches the surface of the impact the NFL player has made in his community.
On Thursday, the NFL and USAA will recognize Cardona at NFL Honors. He will be the 13th recipient of the award.
“The one thing I’m really proud of is the opportunity for recognition for those that I served alongside whether it’s those in my unit or those that wear the cloth of the nation,” Cardona told Fox News Digital. “This is my opportunity to really recognize them and represent them as I do in the NFL.”
Cardona joined the late Bud Adams, Charles Tillman, John Harbaugh, Jared Allen, the late Vincent Jackson, Dan Quinn, Andre Roberts, Ben Garland, Donnie Edwards, Steve Cannon, Andrew Beck and Ron Rivera among those who have won the award in the past.
“To see the amount of work they did to support the men and women in uniform, to support veterans, to support military families, to support Gold Star families, it’s an honor to be counted amongst them.”
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USAA will contribute $25,000 in Cardona’s honor to official aid societies representing each military branch. The NFL Foundation will also match the $25,000 donation for Cardona’s military charity of choice.
Cardona’s win comes at a time when Americans are as divided as ever and the division and divisiveness is only growing.
He offered some advice on how the country can really come together.
“You look at your neighbor,” he told Fox News Digital. “You understand what your neighbor needs. You understand what they hold dear. You understand what’s important to them.
“We do it every day in the locker room. … In the military, men and women come from all over the country, different walks of life, different backgrounds, different education, different creeds, colors, whatever you want to say. They come together, and they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution – protect and defend each other more than anything.
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“And we do that on the football field – we come together as a locker room. Individuals from all over that have different beliefs and we set those beliefs aside for the accomplishment of a mission. And I think as a country, we can pull together, really align ourselves and remind ourselves what our values are as Americans. I think that’s a start. But understanding the person next to you and what they believe in that first step.”
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