The New England Patriots have close ties to the armed forces, but few current members of the organization have been as directly impacted by the military as long snapper Joe Cardona, cornerback Marcus Jones and tight end Matt Sokol. All three grew up with parents in the military, with Cardona himself is currently a Lieutenant in the Naval Reserves.
In honor of Veterans Day, all three sat down to talk about their experiences growing up and how life surrounded by the military has shaped them.
Jones’ father, for example, is a 32-year Army veteran.
“He definitely taught me a lot about military life, and also being a military child being stationed in different places like Fort Campbell, Fort Rucker,” the rookie cornerback said. “Being stationed in those places definitely helped me be social. Meeting new friend groups and just playing sports as well, traveling, seeing different people and how people interact with each other.”
Like Jones, Sokol’s parents also served in the Army. They both went to West Point and in 1989 were deployed overseas in Iraq. When they returned home, they settled in Michigan where the practice squad tight end grew up as well.
“Growing up with that background in my family, really just all the things that they instilled in me, I really just carry it with me as an adult,” said Sokol. “All the discipline that I have today is really just rooted from the way that they raised me, their former cadet lifestyle. Really been super honored and very proud of my mom and dad and what they did.”
Together with Cardona, whose father served in the Navy for 24 yards and is currently working for the Department of Defense, Jones and Sokol both share a set of experiences. This, in turn, gives them a unique perspective to also serve as role models for kids growing up in military households.
“As military kids we represent a lot of the kids of service members out there that are going through some of the same things that we went through when we were kids,” said Cardona.
Just last week, as part of the NFL’s Salute to Service initiative, the Patriots hosted several families associated with TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors.
“The TAPS families that were at the game last weekend, was very, very touching to greet them and to at least show the appreciation and respect we have for their loved ones,” said head coach Bill Belichick. “Also, to see all the military people out there, even Army, the bands, so forth. All the people on the field. In the end they all defend our freedom, and we appreciate what they all do.”