CHARLOTTE -- To honor the memory of those who died in service to our country, Carolina Panthers players will wear a decal with the initials of a fallen service member on their helmets Nov. 8 when they face the Green Bay Packers. During the game, the service members will be honored in video tribute, and their loved ones will be welcomed onto the field between the first and second quarters to receive a replica helmet with the decal, signed by their player.
"My father served 32 years in the U.S. Army, and the Armed Forces are very close to my heart," head coach Ron Rivera said. "Our service men and women exemplify commitment, integrity, selflessness and spirit. Our team is proud to recognize all who serve and their families, whose support makes service possible, and to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country."
The week of the game, each player will receive a bio and picture of the service member they will honor. All fallen heroes have a connection to the Carolinas – they were natives of the region, trained or deployed from a base in the Carolinas. Recognized service members were identified and randomly paired with players with the help of the USO of North Carolina and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).
"It is a privilege for me to be able to pay tribute to someone who gave everything for our country," cornerback and 2012 NFL Salute to Service award winner Charles Tillman said. "My dad served 20 years in the Army and the lessons he learned about teamwork and leadership have served me well throughout my life and while playing football. I'm honored to be a part of this program on Sunday and grateful to all the members of our Armed Forces for their service."
The helmets will also feature a Purple Heart decal - the Panthers became the first NFL Purple Heart team two years ago - and the NFL's Salute to Service logo.
The special recognition during the Nov. 8 game is part of the Panthers' and the NFL's annual Salute to Service military appreciation campaign. Each November, NFL clubs designate home games during the month to honor service members and veterans with the presentation of colors, special in-game tributes, stadium flyovers and localized military-themed activation as part of their Veterans Day celebrations. For every point scored during Salute to Service games, the league donates $100 to each of its three core, military nonprofit partners – the Pat Tillman Foundation, USO, and Wounded Warrior Project® – for a total of $300 per point. Since the campaign's inception in 2011, the NFL has donated more than $4 million to its three military nonprofit partners. The funds have been used to build family centers on military bases, host physical health expos for injured veterans and provide scholarships for service members. For more information about Salute to Service visit www.nfl.com/salute.
About the USO of North Carolina
The USO of North Carolina leads the way to enrich the lives of America's military in the Carolinas by providing critical programs and services that improve their well-being. Its mission is to lift the spirits of America's troops and their families. Founded in 1941, the USO of NC is a nonprofit, charitable organization, relying on the generosity of North Carolinians to support its programs and services. The USO of NC touches more than 575,000 lives annually, helping our troops and their families through education, wellness, transition assistance and resiliency programs across the state. The USO of NC is a nonprofit, charitable organization, relying on the generosity of North Carolinians to support its programs and services. Combined Federal Campaign donors have joined thousands of individual donors, Bank of America, Cannon Foundation, Community Coffee, Harris Teeter, Kangaroo Express, Lenovo, Marine Federal Credit Union, Walmart and other corporate partners to support the USO of NC and our troops. For more information visit www.uso-nc.org, and to donate, click here.
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is the national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America's fallen military heroes and has offered support to more than 50,000 surviving family members of our fallen military and their caregivers since 1994. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, healing seminars and retreats for adults, camps for children, casework assistance, connections to community-based care, online and in-person care groups and the 24/7 National Military Survivor Helpline at 800.959.TAPS (8277) available for all who have been affected by a death in the Armed Forces. Services are provided free of charge. For more information go to www.taps.org or call TAPS at 202.588.TAPS (8277).