New England Patriots follow Cardona to honor military on Sunday night

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 11: Long snapper Joe Cardona
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 11: Long snapper Joe Cardona /

New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona is an active duty Navy officer, and he wanted to find a way to give back to the local military for Sunday’s game.

200 military members will be in attendance when the New England Patriots take on the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night. The tickets were donated by Patriots players and the organization thanks to long snapper Joe Cardona.

A United States Naval Academy graduate, and an active duty officer, Cardona wanted to find a way to give back to local military members across New England. Now, players and coaches have donated 200 tickets to get those heroes to the game.

The 200 military members will also be on the field before the game, as Cardona wanted to provide them all with a very unique and special experience.

"“It was a collaborative effort. I was talking to Matt Slater, we were thinking of ways to reach out, especially to our local military community, and show how much we value them. My point of view was, ‘Let’s give these men and women the experience of coming to a big game.’ Let’s get them a personal feel, them being our personal guests, guests of the team. “One percent of the population in the United States raises their hand and swears to protect and defend the constitution,” Cardona explained. “With such a small number of people serving now in our great, all-volunteer force, it’s become more of a divide between the civilian world and military world. So one personal goal of mine is to bridge that gap and also the narrow divide and mentality between a war fighter and a professional athlete where performance is so important. Also, the brotherhood between those of us in the locker room is very similar to those many units around the country that are serving all over the world.”"

Cardona hopes to close the gap between military members and civilians, to show unity in the United States. He has a unique perspective of the brotherhood felt in both the military and on a team playing a game.

While I don’t have the experience of playing in the NFL, I will agree that the military can become like a second family in the same way a tight-knit sports team does. I was Active Duty in the Navy from March 2013 through July 2017, and I met a lot of great people and made some lifelong friends. What makes the military, and a sports locker room, so unique is the sheer amount of different opinions that everyone has. As an individual, you have to choose to overlook some things, compromise, and work hard to accomplish one goal as a team. Cardona knows what that is like and he wants to bridge that gap.

Patriots players and coaches are given 2 tickets to each game, but they are able to purchase even more. Some players donated their 2, while others purchased even more for the military members. Matthew Slater was one of the first people to contribute, and he noted how he also wants to bring people together.

"“I think we all have an understanding of what’s been going on in the NFL over the course of the season and dating back to last year. It goes without saying what our team did here, how a lot of guys felt strongly about certain things, but as a Christian I believe we should always be working on bringing people together and focusing more on what we have in common and trying to make people feel loved and included.”"

Another military note

Off topic, but on topic at the same time, former Patriots tight end and defensive end Jake Bequette has completed basic training and is now an enlisted member of the United States Army.

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Bequette was a star at the University of Arkansas and the Patriots drafted him 90th overall in the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He spent a lot of time on the practice squad through 2014, and then moved to tight end but was injured and waived in August of 2015. Though he never got much playing time with the Patriots, he was fun to watch in training camp and preseason games. Without injury, I think Bequette could have developed into a solid depth tight end. Now, he’ll serve his country as another type of patriot.