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The NFL and USAA, the League's Official Military Appreciation Sponsor, announced the two finalists for the 2012 Salute to Service Award today. USAA is a leading provider of insurance and other services to members of the U.S. military and their families.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers General Manager Mark Dominik and Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman were selected for their exceptional efforts to honor and support members of the military community.
The Salute to Service Award will be presented to one of the finalists at the "2nd Annual NFL Honors" - a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on Saturday, February 2, 9-11 p.m. (ET) on CBS. In addition, a $25,000 contribution will be made by USAA in the winner's honor to the aid societies representing all five military branches.
"I'm proud to say that our military is important not only to me, but to our entire organization," said Dominik. "This organization was named a finalist just as much as I was, because we all work together to make sure the Bay area understands that we really do appreciate everything our military does for us."
The Salute to Service Award, presented by USAA, is an annual award whereby the NFL and USAA team to recognize excellence in appreciation of military service carried out by NFL coaches, players, and staff. The award aligns with USAA's commitment to serving the military and their families, and highlights the NFL's long history of honoring the armed forces and veterans.
"There are many men and women across the NFL who actively support the military and their families," said Steve Speakes, executive vice president of USAA's external affairs and a retired Army lieutenant general. "The Salute to Service Award is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on at least a few of those stories so that we may inspire others to do the same."
Whether renovating a retired Air Force Sergeant's home, providing veterans with job placement assistance, or serving a warm meal to those who serve others, Dominik has continued to make a significant impact in the community since being named the Buccaneers' GM in 2009. Inspired by personal experience - both his father and brother served in the Navy - Dominik has championed the cause of giving back to our nation's armed forces by initiating community outreach programs that directly assist active and retired servicemen and women from all branches of the military.
In August of 2012, Dominik revealed the home renovations for retired U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Andy Bernt. The military home renovation project - the second of which Dominik has helped coordinate - was carried out through a $40,000 team donation and the support of Buccaneers staff, Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay and C1 Bank. Bernt, a retired emergency rescue responder who has battled Stage 4 Lymphoma and is paralyzed, now benefits from a complete house renovation thanks to these efforts.
Personal and professional development for local military members has been a passion of Dominik's as well. He was instrumental in organizing the inaugural Central Florida Military Resource Fair, presented by the Buccaneers on November 4 at Raymond James Stadium. The event, which was free to military, offered a job fair with federal, state and local employers, as well as interview skill development and resume assistance. On-site VA benefits and health care enrollment were available, as were accommodations for flu shots and medical screenings. The event, which assisted thousands of local servicemen and women, was the first of its kind to bring together the three Tampa Bay VA Hospitals for one resource event. Working through the team's strengthening relationships with local military groups, Dominik helped ensure that Bay area armed forces would benefit from a unique and valuable afternoon as the Buccaneers traveled to Oakland to take on the Raiders.
For the past three years, Dominik has visited James A. Haley VA Hospital during the week of Veterans Day to greet servicemen young and old recovering from injury and illness. On November 6, 2012, he helped coordinate a group visit to Bay Pines VA Hospital near St. Petersburg to continue such a tradition. Along with Buccaneers players, staff, and USAA volunteers, Dominik also visited US Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater that day to help serve lunch to more than 200 Coast Guard members in appreciation of their service.
New to Buccaneers home games this season was the "Salute to Service Suite," established by Dominik to honor local heroes. At every home game, more than a dozen local military members rooted on the team from a luxury suite and were given a standing ovation when honored over the stadium's public address system. The suite was particularly popular during the team's Salute to Service game on Veterans Day, which included a pregame collection drive for troops, a special honorary captain, and in what has become a tradition, the largest-ever group induction of men and women into military service at Raymond James Stadium.
The list of outreach efforts goes on. For the fourth consecutive year, Dominik invited wounded warriors to view training camp practice from the sidelines, where they were given VIP treatment for the day. At every home game, "Dominik's Den" continues to offer 24 military members front row seats and a chance to watch warm-ups from the field, where he greets each guest with a specially-made Buccaneers military challenge coin, a staple for Dominik whenever shaking the hand of those who've served. He remains an auxiliary member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #4321, for which he has helped host an annual fundraiser. And last year he participated in a tandem skydive jump with Special Operations Command Para-Commandos to experience the risk that military members endure in the line of duty.
In October 2012, 23 NFL clubs nominated coaches, active and retired players, and team executives and personnel who best demonstrated support for the military community. The submissions were evaluated by a panel of judges based on the positive effect of the individual's efforts on the military community, the type of service conducted, the thoroughness of the program and level of commitment.
The panel of judges, consisting of representatives from the U.S. military, the NFL and USAA, includes:
Tennessee Titans owner K.S. "Bud" Adams Jr. won the Salute to Service Award in 2011, the award's inaugural year. For more information about the Salute to Service Award, please visit www.nfl.com/salute or www.usaa.com/nfl.
USAA provides insurance and more to 9.4 million members of the U.S. military and their families. Known for its legendary commitment to its members, USAA is consistently recognized for outstanding service, employee well-being and financial strength. USAA membership is open to all who are serving or have honorably served our nation in the U.S. military - and their families. For more information about USAA, or to learn more about membership, visit USAA.com.