CHARLOTTE – The Carolina Panthers will extend a heartfelt salute to veterans and active military before and during Monday night's battle against the New England Patriots.
Players, coaches and the Bank of America Stadium field itself will feature symbolic salutes to the military during the team's designated NFL Salute to Service game, and fans will have multiple opportunities to show their appreciation.
The first chance will be at the stadium gates, where uniformed military personnel and volunteers will be stationed to accept donations for the team's second annual Military Support Stadium Collection. The fundraiser benefits the United Service Organizations of North Carolina, which helps meet the needs of military and their families of 333,000 troops annually.
"The NFL's Salute to Service initiative provides fans across the NFL with a great opportunity to thank and recognize both veterans and active duty members of our Armed Forces," said Riley Fields, Panthers director of community relations. "This Monday, Panthers fans will again have the opportunity to make monetary donations to support the important programs and services the USO-NC provides to military personnel and families across our region."
The NFL will also provide for three military support organizations – the USO, Pat Tillman Foundation and Wounded Warrior Project – by donating $100 to each for every point scored Monday. Last year, that added up to nearly $800,000 through the league's 32 Salute to Service games.
Even before the teams start putting up points, the spirit of appreciation will be in full affect. The Panthers have been designated as the NFL's first Purple Heart team, and players will wear Purple Heart stickers on their helmets. Players and coaches on both teams will have the opportunity to wear camouflage equipment, and the field and even the game-used footballs will feature camouflage ribbons.
Seven Purple Heart recipients from the Vietnam and Korean wars will sit in the "Row of Honor" that the Panthers feature at every home game. From their vantage, they'll see troops lead the Panthers out of the tunnel and participate in the coin toss as guest captains. Pregame music – including the national anthem featuring the 82nd Airborne Chorus and 130 troops unveiling a field-sized American flag - and halftime entertainment will be provided by multiple military groups.