Veterans Day is a federal holiday, but for the New England Patriots it meant returning to work after a weekend away from football: coming off its bye, the team held its first practice of the week today. The session, which saw the return of tight end Benjamin Watson and the absence of safety Patrick Chung, was followed by a media availability session inside the locker room and one player in particular was quite popular.
Joe Cardona is not just the Patriots’ long snapper, he also is serving in the U.S. Navy and was promoted to Lieutenant earlier this year. Needless to say that Veterans Day has a special meaning for the 27-year-old, who came to New England as a fifth-round draft selection out of the Naval Academy in 2015 and has since grown into a fixture of the club’s special teams operation — and a two-time Super Bowl winner.
On Monday, however, Cardona’s second occupation and his role as a service member received most of the attention — not his NFL career: “For a day we can truly honor those that have served and those that continue to serve it’s always a good opportunity to just recognize them, reach out and thank them for what they have done. That’s what I like doing today, thanking those that are close to me that have served and are continuing to serve.”
Cardona himself is on double duty ever since joining the Patriots four years ago. As part of his commitment to the Navy, he has led numerous military support initiatives over the course of his pro football career: he has hosted over a dozen special re-enlistment and retirement ceremonies, and free football clinics for military children at military bases all over New England — all while also playing for the Patriots.
“As a member of the Armed Forces and a member of the Naval Reserve, I’m going to continue doing my job on that side,” said Cardona. “And the more I continue to do, and the more my career progresses, it’s just a point of pride that I can involve my teammates and the greater New England area in shedding a little more light not on my service but on those that are actively serving, deployed, and the veterans out there.”
“That’s really the ultimate goal of it,” he continued before talking about the importance of honoring veterans and active service members. “Everybody in that stadium is taking advantage of the freedoms that they have allotted to us and continue to fight and protect. Whether you’re playing or you’re enjoying the game in the stands, you have a lot to owe those that have served and those that continue to serve for that experience.”
“To see service members on the field surrounding us is always something special,” added Cardona. His involvement within the military community has also been recognized by the organization: he was named the Patriots’ Ron Burton Community Service Award winner in 2018 and is also the team’s nominee for the 2019 Salute to Service Award presented by USAA — the fourth straight year that the Patriots have picked him as a nominee.