The Cleveland Browns will highlight their year-round platform of local and national military appreciation by honoring military personnel, veterans and their families throughout Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars as part of the NFL's *Salute to Service *initiative.
OL Joe Thomas, the only offensive lineman in NFL history and fifth player ever to be named to the Pro Bowl each of his first 10 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 extended his incredible ironman streak to 10,363 offensive plays without missing a snap to begin his career and started 167 consecutive games at left tackle, has been highly involved in all of the team's programs supporting military members and their families since joining Cleveland and 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 Cleveland's recent event when players and servicemen and servicewomen from the USO of Northern Oho prepared care packages and deployment bags at the team's facility to be sent to troops stationed overseas. He also continues to personally fund his season-ticket program for "Thomas' Troops," which offers members of the USO of Northern Ohio who are deployed or will soon be deployed and their families free tickets and additional gameday items for all Browns home games throughout the season.
Cleveland will salute and host servicemen and servicewomen from each military branch throughout Sunday's game against Jacksonville, 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, Commander Paul Vogel will serve as the Browns First and Ten Coin Toss Captain. Vogel, who has served in the military for more than 30 years, currently serves as the Executive Officer of the US Coast Guard Base in Cleveland and has been recognized with two Meritorious Service Medals, two Coast Guard Commendation Medals, two Coast Guard Achievement Medals, the Commandant's Letter of Commendation and the Coast Guard Basic Training Honor Graduate Ribbon during his career. In addition to his commitment to our country, Commander Vogel gives back to the local community through his efforts coaching youth sports, engagement with the USO of Northern Ohio and the ALS Association of Northern Ohio. During the past five years, he has raised more than $50,000 to benefit the ALS Association of Northern Ohio, helping many individuals who are impacted by the disease, including his wife.
Members of the USO of Northern Ohio representing multiple military branches will be celebrated in the Hats Off to Our Heroes Honor Row, while additional representatives from the organization and the Ohio National Guard will be on the field pregame with the American flag. At all Browns home games, the team recognizes and salutes the accomplishments and services of those who support our country and communities, as well as local heroes throughout the year through the Hats Off to Heroes Honor Row.
During halftime, the team will also host members of the US Marine Corps for a Marine Combat Fitness Test Showcase, a demonstration of one of the final rigorous steps before individuals become full-fledged members of the specialized U.S. service group. The Browns welcomed US Marines to the team's facility on Oct. 13 for an official Marine Combat Test, where Thomas also spent time with the group.
Recently, the Browns hosted a #give10 visit with approximately 20 active military members representing all branches at the team's facility in Berea. Browns players and staff – including Dee Haslam,*Head CoachHue Jackson,Thomas, OLJoel Bitonio, DBBriean Boddy-Calhoun, RBIsaiah Crowell, OLSpencer Drango, DLMyles Garrett, DBDarius Hillary, DLTyrone Holmes, RBDuke Johnson Jr., OLRod Johnson, DBMike Jordan, DLT.Y. McGill, FBDanny Vitale* – joined the USO of Northern Ohio, a community partner of the First and Ten movement, to prepare care packages and items to be sent to troops overseas.
On Sunday morning, the Browns will also hold a special breakfast to honor and thank the more than 20 veterans who are members of the gameday guest services group and support the team's efforts to create an exceptional gameday experience fan experience during each home game.
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 alumnus RB Eric Metcalf(2013), inducted into the Cleveland Browns Legends in 2008, have 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.
Each year, the NFL and its 32 teams come together to honor and support members of the military as part of the NFL's Salute to Service. The league's year-round military appreciation efforts culminate in November with NFL Salute to Service games and other special events honoring veterans, active duty service members and their families.
The NFL works with its core military nonprofit partners to show gratitude for all those who have served our country. The NFL, along with its partners, is proud to support the Pat Tillman Foundation, TAPS, USO and Wounded Warrior Project, to fund programs and provide resources that positively impact veterans and active duty military members and their families. Since 2011, more than $17 million has been raised throughSalute to Service to support the league's military nonprofit partners.
New this year, for every use of #SalutetoService on Twitter, the NFL will donate $5 to its military nonprofit partners, up to a total of $5 million.
Click here to learn how the Cleveland Browns support active military and veterans throughout the year.