New England Patriots Joe Cardona, a Lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserve, wins the 2023 Salute to Service Award.
Arlington, VA (February 7, 2024) – The NFL and USAA announced Joe Cardona, long snapper for the New England Patriots and MFAN Board Member, as the 13th Annual Salute to Service Award recipient. The award recognizes the outstanding efforts by members of the NFL to honor, empower, and connect with our nation’s service members, veterans, and their families.
Last November, each of the NFL’s 32 teams nominated active and retired players, coaches, team executives, and personnel who best demonstrated support for the military community. Following a consensus fan vote and internal committee review in February, Cardona was named one of three finalists alongside Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones and San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle. A panel of judges comprising representatives from the U.S. military community, the NFL, and the USAA determined the award recipient.
Military lifestyle has always played a central role in Joe’s life. He grew up in a military family, attended the United States Naval Academy as a four-year football player, and still serves in the United States Navy Reserve. He actively participates in his community and works regularly with local schools, businesses, and charities on military and veteran issues to make a positive impact off the field.
“I am humbled to receive this special award and inspired by my fellow nominees’ commitment to the men and women in our military and their families,” said Cardona. “Growing up in a military family, it’s always been my dream to serve my country; it has also been my dream to play professional football. I count my blessings and am incredibly grateful for the support of the U.S. Navy and New England Patriots, which allows me to do both. I will continue to do my part in serving the military community. Military families represent the best of our country, and we cannot forget the sacrifices they make each day for our nation.”
USAA contributes $25,000 in Cardona’s honor to the military’s official aid societies as part of the charitable award package. The NFL Foundation will also match this donation to a military charity of Joe’s choice.
Lt. Cardona will be honored with the Salute to Service Award on Thursday, February 8, at Resorts World Theatre in Las Vegas. As part of Super Bowl week, NFL Honors is a nationally televised awards special on the CBS Television Network and NFL Network. Viewers may also stream the award ceremony on Paramount+ and NFL+.
About Joe: Since 2015, Lt. Cardona has balanced a career in the NFL and the U.S. Military. As a junior officer of Maritime Security Squadron 8, Joe currently oversees the logistical needs of 500 sailors. Last fall, he was elected to serve on MFAN’s board of directors. This offseason, he deployed with his unit to Djibouti, Africa. Following a fire at Joint Base Cape Cod, Joe personally visited with affected military families. He also led a toy collection drive to help replace items lost in the inferno.
Additionally, he took the time to lead several free football clinics for military children at various bases across New England, including Hanscom Air Force Base and Naval Station Newport. Joe has personally delivered new bicycles to military families and helped complete a new home for a wounded veteran. Joe has actively participated in events like Brothers of Life at Gillette Stadium, an annual gathering hosted by the Kraft family that brings together wounded Israeli soldiers and American counterparts. As a service member, Joe has presided over over a dozen re-enlistment and retirement ceremonies at Gillette Stadium.
About MFAN: The Military Family Advisory Network envisions a world where all military-connected families are empowered to thrive. MFAN’s mission is to understand and amplify the needs of military-connected families and inspire data-informed change. Learn more about MFAN’s research, programs, and resources at mfan.org.
For more on the Salute to Service Award, visit NFL.com/Salute.