Donnie Edwards, LA Chargers Legend, Recipient of 2019 USAA Salute To Service Award

LA Chargers legend Donnie Edwards has been honored as the recipient of the 2019 NFL Salute to Service Award. The award is sponsored by the USAA and is given to a member of the NFL family who has done great things for members of the military community. 

    “Inspired by his grandfather’s service in WWII, Donnie has exhibited true appreciation for the sacrifices of WWII veterans and those currently serving overseas,” said Vice Admiral (Ret.) John Bird, USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs. “In honor of his very admirable work with those in the greatest generation, USAA is proud to honor Donnie Edwards as the recipient of this year’s ‘Salute to Service Award presented by USAA.'”

    Edwards was a terror on the field for opposing offenses. Drafted in the fourth round out of UCLA by the Kansas City Chiefs, he would go on to become a two time All-Pro. His most productive years came with the then San Diego Chargers, where he spent five years. Both his All Pro nods came as a Charger, as did his lone Pro Bowl appearance in 2002. When he retired in 2009, he was one of only eight players in NFL history to record at least 20 interceptions and 20 sacks in a career.

    After his time on the gridiron came to an end, Edwards turned his focus towards humanitarian efforts and community involvement. He founded the Best Defense Foundation (BDF) in 2002. The foundation focuses on helping military members and their families. Its motto is “taking care of the ones who took care of us!” The BDF provides free experiences for military veterans. One such experience they put on is called Battlefield Returns. These experiences are for World War II veterans who did not get to experience a sense of closure. They are given the opportunity to return to wherever they served and be honored for their service. The BDF has already sent veterans back to places such as the beaches of Normandy and Pearl Harbor to be recognized for the incredible sacrifices they made. Edwards himself has made many trips overseas to be with these veterans as they try to make peace with their pasts.

“It’s been really rewarding for me,” Edwards said on the subject. “I’ve been taking back veterans for about 14 years and I’ve done over 33 programs around the world – from Berchtesgaden, Germany to the beaches of Iwo Jima, and everything in between.” 

The BDR also offers transition programs to military members who were recently relieved of their duties. The goal of these programs is to help them assimilate back into normal society. They have also funded and supported numerous organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America and Read Across America. 

Edwards was inspired to start BDF by his grandfather, Maximino. He served in WWII and survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, so Edwards knew first hand what sacrifices military families and veterans make on a daily basis. 

“[My grandfather’s] service and sacrifice to our country has always pushed me to pay tribute and give gratitude to those who protect our way of life, Edwards said. “He always used to tell me that I have a tremendous amount of opportunity and freedom by being born in this great nation. I now want to use my platform to serve and give back to our active military personnel and veterans.” 

Edwards joins a list of current NFL players and legends to be honored with this award. That exclusive club includes Jared Allen, John Harbaugh, Vincent Jackson and Charles “Peanut” Tillman.

“I’m honored to be the recipient of the Salute of Service Award for my work with the military,” Edwards said. “It means so much to me to continue the legacy of my grandfather, Maximino, by honoring the ones who defended – and continue to defend – freedom.”

Edwards will be officially recognized at the NFL Honors awards show hosted by Steve Harvey on February 1st. The show will air at 8 PM on Fox.

Written by Michael Hull

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