NFL’s Salute to Service Helps Wounded Warrior Project Honor and Empower Injured Veterans
Football is the No. 1 sport in America, and the NFL regularly uses its popularity to celebrate the men and women who serve America. The league’s Salute to Service campaign is a year-round initiative to “honor, empower, and connect with the nation’s service members, veterans and their families.”
The NFL has partnered with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) for more than 10 years to help WWP provide life-changing programs and services to wounded warriors.
Here’s a look at some of the ways the NFL supported WWP and warriors during the Salute to Service campaign in 2022-23:
My Cause, My Cleats
For the fourth consecutive season, Denver Broncos defensive lineman Mike Purcell supported WWP during the league’s annual My Cause, My Cleats, which allows players the opportunity to pick a cause to represent on a specially designed pair of cleats.
“This is really just a shout out and thank you for those who have served our country and sacrificed so much,” Purcell said of choosing WWP as his charity of choice.
The cleats were worn during Week 13 games, and were then auctioned off to raise money for the cause.
“I wouldn’t be able to do what I do on Sundays if it wasn’t for all the service members across the country and the world,” Purcell said. “They’re the true heroes who have fought for our country."
In 2021, Purcell unveiled his cleats at WWP’s Colorado Springs office and met with area warriors. In 2020, during the My Cause, My Cleats campaign, Purcell highlighted several WWP warriors from Colorado with their names on his shoes.
The players who selected WWP for My Cause, My Cleats this year were:
- Walker Little, offensive lineman, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Devin Lloyd, linebacker, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Anthony Nelson, linebacker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Mike Purcell, defensive lineman, Denver Broncos
- Darren Waller, tight end, Las Vegas Raiders
Combatting Mental Health Stigmas
Warriors share stories with Morgan Fox: Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Morgan Fox has strong roots in military service. His father, Joe Fox, is an Army veteran, WWP warrior and a training specialist for Project Odyssey, a no-cost 12-week mental health program that uses adventure-based learning to help warriors with PTSD, anxiety, and depression manage and overcome their invisible wounds. Morgan sat down with several warriors in October to hear their stories and learn about the mental health challenges they face after service. These meaningful connections remind warriors, players, and humans alike that asking for help is brave and powerful.
Roundtable With Darren Waller: Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller led a roundtable discussion with several warriors to discuss issues surrounding mental health. The roundtable, hosted by WWP partner USAA, focused on how warriors are managing their mental health well-being and how WWP honors and empowers warriors. Waller also selected WWP as his charity of choice for My Cause, My Cleats, and paid homage to his cousin who served 20 years in the Army with her image painted on the cleat. Waller also created the Darren Waller Foundation, which helps give youth the tools to avoid and overcome addiction to drugs and alcohol and provides recovery services.
Warrior and New York Jets’ Solomon Thomas talk suicide prevention: The NFL selected warrior Tim McDonough to join New York Jets defensive tackle Solomon Thomas in a chat about mental health. McDonough and Solomon are both on a mission to combat stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. Thomas’ sister died by suicide in 2018 when she was just 24 years old, and Thomas has since become a staunch advocate for mental health wellness and suicide prevention. Tim, an Air Force veteran, has shared his story about his mental health issue. During his time in the Air Force, Tim would accompany the remains of service members killed in action back to the states while serving as a crew chief aboard cargo planes, resulting in long-lasting PTSD. Part of Tim’s new mission is to honor those service members by helping other veterans combat PTSD by speaking out about the importance of mental health care. Thomas also gave Tim a tour of MetLife Stadium, as well as a signed jersey and tickets to a New York Jets home game.
WWP Outreach Specialist Honored for Service
U.S. Army veteran and WWP outreach specialist Tramashika “T” DeWalt was honored for her service to veterans through her work with WWP and Mission Continues, which is part of the Bob Woodruff Foundation. Tramashika credits organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project and programs like the Mission Continues for helping her turn her life around.
As part of the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign, Tramashika shared her story of her service, losing her home during Hurricane Harvey, and her struggles with transitioning from the military to civilian life and post-traumatic stress disorder. She also talked about what helped her recover and the desire to help other veterans through their difficult times.
The NFL recognized Tramashika’s efforts to help other veterans by surprising her with tickets to Super Bowl LVII in Arizona, with the news being delivered by 49ers’ George Kittle
Super Bowl Surprise for Woman Warrior
Warrior and Army veteran Lisa Crutch was surprised with two tickets to Super Bowl LVII. Crutch, a Philadelphia Eagles fan, was representing WWP at events in Phoenix when she found out she would get the chance to see her team play for the title. Arizona Cardinals linebacker Victor Dimukeje delivered the good news to Lisa, followed by a Facetime from Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz, thanking her for her service
Dallas Cowboys/Medal of Honor Museum/WWP/Sleep Number
Sleep Number worked with the Medal of Honor Museum, the Dallas Cowboys, and WWP to give away a bed to warrior Fernando Silvestrucci. The Army veteran and his family were also given a tour of the Cowboys’ training facilities. On top of that, Fernando was surprised with a FaceTime video from Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup, who invited Fernando to be on the sideline at halftime during the team’s Salute to Service game Nov. 20, 2022, against the Minnesota Vikings.
Super Bowl Surprise during Tuesday Night Gaming
Los Angeles-based warrior Juan Castro was invited to be a guest on the NFL's first-of-its-kind gaming collaboration, Tuesday Night Gaming, under the guise that he was going to meet NFL players and legends, and top gaming content creators. What started as a cool gaming experience led to a surprise of Super Bowl tickets for Juan and his son. Los Angeles Rams safety Jordan Fuller presented him with the tickets, thanking Juan for his service.
These are just a few of the things the NFL has done to honor service members, veterans, and their families through its Salute to Service campaign.
While the NFL season came to end Sunday, Feb. 12, with the Kansas City Chiefs’ 38-35 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII, the NFL’s support for those who serve continues.
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.