FOXBORO, Mass. — Monday’s holiday carried a special meaning for New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona.
In addition to being a key cog in the Patriots’ field-goal operation for the last five seasons, Cardona also serves as a Lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve. Speaking at his locker in an olive-green “Salute to Service” Patriots hoodie, the 27-year-old used his platform to explain the importance of Veterans Day.
“Ultimately, right now, the current population of the United States that are veterans is below 10 percent,” Cardona said. “I think they say it’s about 7.6 percent. And realistically, for a day where we can truly honor those that have served and those that continue to serve, it’s always a good opportunity to just recognize them, reach out and thank them for what they’ve done. And that’s what I like doing today — thanking those that are close to me that served and that continue to serve. …
“Any time we have service members, veterans, anybody who’s committed themselves to protecting our rights and freedoms as Americans — really, an NFL game is a display of all that. Everybody in that stadium is taking advantage of the freedoms that they’ve allotted to us and continue to fight and protect. Whether you’re playing or whether you’re enjoying the game in the stands, you have a lot to owe those that have served and those that continue to serve for that experience.”
Cardona, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2015, was promoted to his current rank this past June in a ceremony held on the Patriots practice field. He’s also sworn in fellow Navy members during training camp and participated in numerous military-related community endeavors, including donating 200 Patriots tickets to servicemen and women in 2017.
“Ultimately, as a member of the Armed Forces and as a member of the Naval Reserve, I’m going to continue to do my job on that side,” Cardona said. “And the more I continue to do and the more my career progresses, it’s just a point of pride that I get to involve my teammates and the greater New England area and shed a little bit more light on not my service, but those that are serving — actively serving, deployed and the veterans out there. That’s really the ultimate goal of it.”
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) August 7, 2017
Cardona was announced last week as the Patriots’ nominee for the NFL’s “Salute to Service Award,” which “honors a league member who demonstrates and exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community.”
“Ultimately, any awards or recognition, it’s always an honor,” Cardona said. “But when I’ve been chosen amongst my teammates — I know how much my teammates care, I know how much they do in the community and how much they support service members, veterans. So it really means a lot just to be counted amongst the great men in this locker room and be considered for an award.
“But really, my ultimate goal is to shed light on those that are continuing to serve and those who have gone before and make sure those folks are getting the respect and treatment that they deserve.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images