NFL to Honor Four 100-year old Veterans During Coin Toss at Super Bowl LIV

MIAMI, Fla. — The NFL recently announced that they will be honoring four 100-year-old veterans at this year’s Super Bowl in Miami. The veterans will be present on the field during the coin toss and one, Colonel Charles E. McGee, will flip the coin. He will be standing next to the other three veterans: Staff Sergeant Odón Sanchez Cardenas, Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Lombardo, and Corporal Sidney Walton.

“As we culminate the NFL’s 100th season, we’re extremely proud to honor four World War II veterans celebrating 100 years of life,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “These four men deserve our gratitude for their tremendous contributions to the United States of America and we’re thrilled to recognize their service on the country’s largest stage.”

This gesture of honor is one of the many that the NFL has done over the last 42 years. The league has a great relationship with the U.S. military and has tried to honor those men and women who have served and are currently serving in the best ways possible. From flyovers to different military performances during pregame, the league has made sure that the military feels respected in all aspects. This may look different in different parts of the country as well, as some NFL cities have different ways of honoring the military. For example, in Jacksonville, they play the same thank you video to the veterans in the stadium at the end of the third quarter, and a bell is rung four times by a service member in “appreciation of this great nation,” as the announcer says.

All four of the men that will be on the field Sunday are from the “Greatest Generation.” They each served in World War II, which ended 75 years ago this year, and are representative of the millions of military members who sacrificed more than we could imagine for our freedom. Odón Sanchez Cardenas served from 1941-1945 when he was honorably discharged after being awarded an American Defense Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and a European African Middle Eastern Service Medal and three Bronze Stars. Cardenas went all over Europe, fighting as a part of the Third Army under the command of General George Patton. He was captured in Germany after nearly dying and was forced to serve as a prisoner of war for two weeks until his camp was freed by allied forces. After service, Cardenas moved to San Antonio, Texas, and became a full-time barber and auto mechanic. He has five sons, four of whom served in the armed forces as well.

Samuel Lombardo was originally commissioned to Fort Benning, Georgia, as an officer. He would then go on to serve in the 99th Infantry Division as the Rifle Platoon Leader and Company Executive Officer during the Battle of the Bulge and other central European campaigns. Once, under harsh combat conditions, Lombardo and his men created a makeshift American flag out of anything they could find, from pillowcases to a German surrender flag. The flag took nearly 10 weeks to finish and was the first American flag to cross the Remagen Bridge. The flag, called “Old Glory,” is now in the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning. Lombardo received a Silver Star and Bronze Star with valor for his heroics during the war. He would go on to serve in the Korean and Vietnam wars as well.

Sidney Walton enlisted for one reason: “fighting Hitler.” He was so adamant in fighting, he enlisted nine months before the U.S. officially entered World War II. Walton would be trained all over the country, and would eventually serve in the 34th Infantry. He rose to the rank of Corporal by the time the war ended. After the war, Walton moved to San Diego, where he would marry and raise a family while working as a chemical engineer. He has been on a nationwide tour with his son Paul called the “No Regrets Tour.” This mission of this tour is to visit every state, raising awareness for the diminishing number of World War II veterans so they are not forgotten. He has visited 26 states thus far and has met the governor in each location. He was even able to meet President Trump in Washington, D.C. There, Walton and his family were hosted in the Oval Office by President Trump himself.

Finally, Charles McGee served in the air force during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. During World War II, he was stationed in Italy, where he flew tactical missions attacking enemy airfields as a part of the 302nd Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group. He would also run strategic missions, where he would escort bombers over Germany, Austria, and the Balkans. Late in 1944, McGee would fly support for a top-secret rescue mission that resulted in the emancipation of more than 1000 prisoners of war in Romania. McGee flew a total of 136 combat missions during World War II and would return to the U.S. in December 1944 as the rank of Captain.

The NFL does so much with the military to make sure its members feel honored and respected, as well as show gratitude for all they have sacrificed. The NFL and its partners have raised more than $34 million to support military nonprofits, such as the Pat Tillman Foundation, USO and the Wounded Warrior Project.

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