Either directly or indirectly, Memorial Day touches all of the United States — and not just because it is a federal holiday: it is a day to remember and honor those that have fallen in service of their country and its people. For New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona the holiday touches close to home, as he himself is a graduate of the Naval Academy and commissioned lieutenant in the Navy Reserves.
“Memorial Day, it’s a day of reflection. It’s great to spend time with the family, and it’s great to be able to enjoy that.” he told ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss when asked about the holiday and its meaning to him. Cardona, of course, joined New England in 2015 and has been the team’s long snapper ever since. His loyalties extend beyond the Patriots, however, as the 27-year-old started his career splitting time between the NFL and the Navy.
Cardona, therefore, has a different view of Memorial Day than most of his teammates. “It’s imperative that every American takes time to reflect upon a loved one, a friend, family member — however you want to put it — somebody that they are connected to that either paid the ultimate sacrifice or served honorably under difficult circumstances,” he said. “It’s a time to reflect upon that and be grateful for it.”
One of Cardona’s teammates that does have a close connection to the military is defensive tackle Adam Butler, whose father retired as a Master Sergeant in the Air Force. Butler, a former undrafted free agent that joined the Patriots in 2017, joined Cardona and tight end Ryan Izzo in planting American flags at the Boston Common last week and also reflected upon Memorial Day.
“When I look at the flags, I see sacrifice: each and every one of them presents sacrifice,” the 25-year-old said in a video published by the Patriots’ social media channels. “And you know what’s crazy? I see sacrifice, but I wonder what my dad sees because he has actually been in the fire, he has actually been in the fog of war. I can only imagine what he thinks when he sees stuff like this.”
The Patriots’ connections to the military run even deeper than Cardona and Butler, though: from head coach Bill Belichick growing up around the Naval Academy — his father, who served in World War II, worked as a scout there — to the mothers of defenders Deatrich Wise Jr. and Keion Crossen to the McCourty twins’ late father, the organization is filled with people who experienced military life at least in some form.