The Cleveland Browns will highlight their year-round platform of local and national military appreciation by recognizing military personnel, veterans and their families throughout Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys as part of the NFL's Salute to Service initiative.
OL Joe Thomas, the only offensive lineman in NFL history to be named to the Pro Bowl each of his first nine seasons, will also be recognized during the game as the team's Salute to Service Award recipient in recognition of his dedication and commitment to those who serve our country. Thomas, who has played in every offensive snap during his professional career (9,458 consecutive) and started all 152 career games since being selected No. 3 overall by the Browns in 2007, has been highly involved in the team's programs supporting military members and their families since joining Cleveland and also continually recognizes those groups through his individual efforts.
In 2010, the eight-time AP All Pro selection embarked on a 10,000-mile, week-long trip to visit troops stationed throughout the Middle East as part of the NFL/USO Tour. He has engaged in multiple military appreciation opportunities through the team's First and Ten program, including Tuesday's visit to Brook Park Armory, and has consistently sponsored a season-ticket program for "Thomas' Troops," which offers members of the USO of Northern Ohio who are deployed or will soon be deployed free tickets throughout the season.
Thomas, who has multiple family members who served, also payed tribute to the 15th anniversary of 9/11 during this year's season opener, when he led the Browns onto the field in Philadelphia while carrying a flag flown from the Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial. The Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial, located in Sunbury, Ohio, was established in 2005 by local veterans, Gold Star families and others who had a vision to build a tribute to the men and women in uniform from Ohio who made the ultimate sacrifice defending the United States.
Cleveland will salute and host servicemen and servicewomen from each military branch throughout Sunday's game against Dallas, incorporating various in-stadium elements and tributes to local heroes. The Browns will also show their appreciation for the USO of Northern Ohio, a community partner of the First and Ten volunteering campaign.
During pregame, Gold Star Families representative Bob Dergawill serve as the Browns First and Ten Coin Toss Captain. Derga honors his son, Corporal Dustin Derga of the US Marine Corp, who sacrificed his life in Iraq in 2005, by committing significant time to TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors). Through TAPS, Bob Derga spends numerous hours supporting military families who have lost a child or loved one while serving our country, as well as raises funds for other organizations benefitting servicemen and servicewomen.
Active members of the Army will be celebrated in the Hats Off to Our Heroes Honor Row, which recognizes and salutes the accomplishments and services of those who support our country and communities, as well as local heroes, at all 10 Browns home games throughout the year.
Sergeant Kennedy B. Jones of the Cleveland Police Department will sing the National Anthem while U.S. Army representatives hold the American flag and more than 50 members of the USO of Northeast Ohio display six banners representing military branches. The Kandahar Browns Backers, based out of Afghanistan, will also present the nation's colors during pregame. The National Anthem will be capped by a C-17 flyover by the 445th Airlift Wing of the United States Air Force Reserve from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
This past Tuesday, the Browns hosted a #give10 visit with approximately 100 active military members representing all branches at Brook Park Armory. The USO of Northern Ohio, a community partner of the First and Ten movement, helped identify individuals to be invited to the event, where Thomas, DB Ibraheim Campbell, OL Shon Coleman, QB Robert Griffin III and OL Austin Pasztor shared a meal with the servicemen and servicewomen to express appreciation for their service.
On November 10, the United States Marine Corps' birthday, the Browns will host members of the US Marine Corps at the team's field house in Berea for an official Marine Combat Test, one of the final rigorous steps before individuals become full-fledged members of the specialized U.S. service group.
The Salute to Service campaign aligns with an NFL tradition of supporting America's armed services, including a more than 45-year partnership with the USO that hosts overseas visits to troops and trips to military hospitals nationwide. Thomas(2010) and former Browns RB Eric Metcalf(2013), inducted into the Cleveland Browns Legends in 2008, recently participated in the weeklong NFL-USO Tours, where they interacted with military personnel on bases overseas.
The USO of Northern Ohio will also have representatives present at the First and Ten tent on Dawg Pound Drive, a 900-foot engaging space on Alfred Lerner way that is free and open to all Browns fans with or without tickets beginning three hours prior to kickoff.
Since its inception 2011, Salute to Service *has extended the NFL's long history of honoring veterans and active duty members of the military, with the NFL making significant donations to its three military non-profit partners during that stretch through the platform. Unifying and elevating the extensive military-appreciation work of the NFL and its clubs, each team will display a number of *Salute to Service-branded elements in its stadium for a designated home game in November. Components include camouflage goal-post wraps, towels, gloves and other equipment, as well as footballs, pylons, banners and lapel pins with the NFL camouflage ribbon.
Game-used items will be collected following Salute to Service games and auctioned on NFL Auction, with 100 percent of net proceeds donated to the league's three core military non-profit partners: the Pat Tillman Foundation, USO and the Wounded Warrior Project.