New England Patriots Salute Nominee: Joe Cardona

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Joe Cardona (Long Snapper)

Joe Cardona epitomizes what it means to be a Patriot. Following an impressive high school athletic career, Joe enrolled in the Naval Academy Preparatory School. Upon completing the prep year, Joe attended the Naval Academy where he was a four-year player as a long snapper. He later became one of only a handful of long snappers to ever be drafted into the NFL after the New England Patriots selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft. During his rookie season, Joe was also balancing a second full-time job. He was an Ensign in the Navy and worked as a staff officer at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island. During the 2015 season, he was working his second job four days a week, which included a 24-hour shift during the team's "day off." In 2017, Joe was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) and served as a junior commissioned officer in the United States Navy. On the 75th anniversary of D-Day – June 6, 2019 – Joe was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the Navy. He proudly wears his Naval uniform as the team boards the plane for away games and remains humble about his service to our country.

When asked about his dedication to the Naval Academy, Joe simply states, "It's just about doing your job. Whether that's on the military end, or the football end, it's showing up every single day and doing the best you can." Over the past five seasons, he has taken advantage of every opportunity to show his appreciation for his fellow servicemen and women. Following a preseason joint practice with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017, Cardona hosted a special re-enlistment ceremony for two brave individuals. After practice, he changed into uniform, led the ceremony and recruited the Patriots and Jaguars players and coaches to be a part of it. Joe has facilitated more than a dozen re-enlistment and retirement ceremonies at Gillette Stadium for his fellow military members. He also led a handful of free football clinics for military children at military bases across New England, including Hanscom Air Force Base and Naval Station Newport. Three years ago, Joint Base Cape Cod experienced a fire that burned several of their storage buildings. Inside of one of those buildings were toys for military families to receive during the holidays. Joe quickly decided to visit the base and worked with the Patriots Foundation to collect toys that would help to replace the ones that were lost.

During the 2017 season, Joe spoke with Patriots team captains and came up with an idea to do something special for our nation's military. During a team meeting, Joe encouraged all of his teammates and the coaching staff to donate a pair of tickets to their October 22 game against Atlanta. Thanks to Joe's leadership, more than 150 military members, who have returned from deployment within the past six months, were invited to the game and took part in a special pregame ceremony. Each year during Memorial Day weekend, Joe helps plant more than 37,000 American flags in the Boston Common to honor all of the brave men and women from Massachusetts that have lost their lives defending our country. He has also hand delivered new bicycles to military families, put the finishing touches on a new home for a wounded veteran and taken part in special pinning ceremonies for Vietnam War veterans. Joe has also offered his support to the Travis Manion Foundation, a nonprofit organization that empowers veterans and families of fallen heroes to develop character in future generations. Last August, Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft presented Joe Cardona with the Ron Burton Community Service Award. This award is named after Ron Burton, the first player drafted by the Patriots who left a legacy of giving back to the community. Joe became the 16th player to receive this award and was recognized for his outstanding commitment to military families and veterans.

Joe has a genuine appreciation for people who make the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country. When asked about his military experience, Joe replies, "It's given me a good perspective on what's really important in life. I appreciate our nation's service members so much, especially being able to take pride in counting myself among them. Ultimately, that's the uniform I put on first, and when I get the opportunity to go out on the field and play, I take that as a blessing every single day."

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