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NFL begins ‘Salute to Service’ with pledge up to $5 million

NEW YORK — The NFL kicked off its “Salute to Service ” campaign to honor the nation’s military, veterans and their families by pledging to donate up to $5 million to its nonprofit partners.

The league is offering $5 to its nonprofit partners for every use of #SaluteToService through Nov. 19. On Veterans Day Nov. 11, the NFL will quadruple its offering to $25 for every use of the designated hashtag.

The NFL, which donated $1.7 million in a similar campaign last year, is committed up to $5 million this time.

“This month we reflect on the sacrifices of our heroes and increase our focus to ensure more service members, veterans and their families find the assistance they need, when they need it,” said Anna Isaacson, NFL senior vice president of social responsibility.

Vietnam War veteran and medal honor recipient, Specialist Five James McCloughan salute as he is honored during Salute Service in the second half of an NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Chicago.| Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Beginning Sunday and continuing throughout November, teams will designate one home game to honor servicemen and women from all branches and their families. Players will also wear helmet decals honoring military branches.

Since 2011, Salute to Service, has raised more than $26 million for military and veteran nonprofit organizations, which now includes the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

Other core military nonprofit partners are the Pat Tillman Foundation, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, the USO and the Wounded Warrior Project. The league also partners with the financial services company USAA.

TAPS supports surviving family members of those who died in service.

The Pat Tillman Foundation, honoring the former NFL star who died while fighting the war in Afghanistan, provides academic scholarships to service members, veterans and military spouses pursuing careers in medicine, business, law, science, education and the arts.

The league has partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project to expand combat stress recovery programs and has served more than 150,000 wounded veterans, family members and caregivers.

The NFL this year expanded its support of the military community with a $2 million grant to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which awarded grants this fall to 22 organizations that support post 9/11 veterans and their families through programs that focus on education and employment, quality of life and rehabilitation and recovery.

Woodruff was inspired to help veterans after he suffered a brain injury while reporting on the Iraq War.

“As our nation’s veterans return home, the Bob Woodruff Foundation helps ensure that they have the tools and resources to thrive in the next chapter of their lives,” said Ann Marie Dougherty, the foundation’s executive director.

The NFL has partnered with United Service Organization for more than 50 years and this year is committing $5 million to aid new projects that will reach service members and their families at more than 200 USO locations across the globe. NFL players and coaches have traveled on USO tours to 25 countries over the last 12 years to meet with nearly 100,000 service members.

Also, the league provides its Game Pass free to service members at USO centers in nine countries.

“The NFL is a game changer for so many of our military and families who are away from their comforts of home,” said Lisa Anastasi, USO chief developing and marketing officer. “What may seem like another Sunday football game to most of us, can mean so much more to those fighting on the front lines.”

Among its many initiatives, USAA hosted “NFL Boot Camps” with multiple teams this year where military members competed in drills similar to those used at the NFL Combine and training camps.

Team owners, general managers, players and former players — including Pro Football Hall of Famer Roger Staubach and former linebacker great Randy Gradishar of the Denver Broncos — make up the list of 32 nominees for the eighth annual Salute to Service Award presented by the NFL and USAA.

Paul Allen, the late owner of the Seattle Seahawks, and Los Angeles Chargers owner Alex Spanos also are nominated with Staubach, the choice for the Dallas Cowboys and Gradishar.

The general managers include John Lynch of the 49ers, Howie Roseman of the Eagles, and Mike Maccagnan and wife Betty of the Jets.

Also nominated are four coaches: Panthers head coach Ron Rivera; Bengals defensive line coach Jacob Burney; Saints quarterbacks Coach Joe Lombardi; and Raiders running backs coach Jemal Singleton.

The Salute to Service Award annually recognizes NFL players, coaches, personnel and alumni who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to the military community.

NFL clubs make nominations, and finalists will be announced in January. The recipient will be recognized at NFL Honors, the prime-time awards program Feb. 2 at which The Associated Press announces its individual awards for the 2018 season.