The Minnesota Vikings, in a joint effort with the NFL and USAA, will host the team's annual "Salute to Service" military appreciation game this Thursday, November 7. The Vikings-Redskins matchup, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. CST, will be dedicated to all branches of the United States Armed Forces and current and former military personnel serving our country.
As part of the game, each player's helmet will contain a decal representing one branch of the military. Players will wear camouflage gloves and use camouflage towels, while coaches and staff will don "Salute to Service" ribbons. Game officials will use footballs with the military-themed ribbon decal as well as a special "Salute to Service" coin for the coin toss.
Along with the military-themed gear, the Vikings will use a variety of pre-game, in-game and halftime elements (listed below) to honor Minnesotans within all branches of military service. The team is also encouraging all fans to arrive early in order to participate in one of the day's highlights - a card stunt during the singing of the National Anthem.
"The Vikings strongly believe in showing our utmost respect for all of the men and women who currently serve - or have served - our country," said Vikings Vice President of Sales and Marketing/Chief Marketing Officer Steve LaCroix. "Many of our players, coaches and staff have a direct connection to military personnel. The military appreciation game is an opportunity to pull multiple elements together to allow the team and our fans to show our appreciation for the selfless individuals in every branch of service."
"One of the most powerful moments of an NFL game is when thousands of fans stand to honor the military and veterans," said Don Clark, USAA executive director of sports sponsorships and events. "We hope all fans will join us in the card stunt, and then visit millionfansalute.com to download and share photos and create a digital salute to honor the military on behalf of the Vikings."
The following is a partial list of many prominent "Salute to Service" game elements that will be employed on Sunday:
• Honorary Captain – Air Force Staff Sergeant Andrew Piazza from the Minnesota National Guard's 133rd Airlift Wing will serve as the team's honorary captain. Staff Sergeant Piazza is a C-130 Hercules Crew Chief and has served in the Minnesota Air National Guard for seven years and has been deployed twice to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
• Team Introductions – Active members of the Minnesota National Guard will line the tunnel exit along with the Vikings cheerleaders. The team will be led on the field by the 34th Infantry Division Red Bull flag, carried by Staff Sergeant Jozy Olson, and select Vikings players will also carry American flags through the tunnel.
• Minnesota Joint Forces Color Guard – Sunday's Color Guard will represent all branches of service – Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
• Field Flag – During the National Anthem, personnel from the Minnesota National Guard will unveil a field-sized American flag.
• National Anthem – Technical Sergeant Craig Bowman, a vocalist from the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America, will perform the National Anthem.
• Card Stunt – During the singing of the National Anthem, the entire stadium will participate in a card stunt presented by USAA. The stunt will display a patriotic message and stars/stripes graphics. The Vikings are asking fans to be in their seats 15 minutes prior to kickoff to ensure full-stadium participation. A photo of a recent card stunt is attached.
• Game Coin – Game officials will use a Military Challenge Coin, which is traditionally used in the Armed Forces to recognize achievement and performance and was created specifically for the "Salute to Service" game. A photo of the coin is attached.
• Salute to Service Moment – During the game, fans, the Vikings and USAA will honor the brave men and women of our Armed Forces by asking all current and former members of the military to stand and be recognized.
• Player Equipment – Players will wear on-field gloves and captains patches and will use camouflage-branded Gatorade towels on the sidelines. Game balls with the NFL shield camo-ribbon decal (image attached) will be used throughout the game. Each player will also have a sticker representing a branch of military service on the back of their helmets. Game-used items will be collected following Salute to Service games and auctioned on NFL Auction (nfl.com/auction) with 100% of net proceeds donated to the league's core military non-profit partners.
• Hometown Hero – Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Bill Harper, a World War II and Korean War veteran, will be recognized as the game's Hometown Hero. At age 24, then-Captain Harper took part in the greatest amphibious assault in U.S. history, Operation Overlord. On June 6, 1944, Captain Harper landed on Omaha beach and was part of the second wave of Allied Forces to storm the beaches of Normandy. He was wounded twice on D-Day and was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. Lt. Col. Harper served 25 years for his country before retiring in 1961.