Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who helped institute the team’s annual Military Appreciation Day and was among the first coaches to partake in the NFL-USO Coaches Tour, could have another armed services-related honor on his résumé by Saturday: the inaugural Salute to Service Award.
Harbaugh and Tennessee Titans owner K.S. “Bud” Adams Jr. were named finalists today for the honor, which the USAA will present during the inaugural “NFL Honors” event on NBC at 9 p.m. Saturday, for their work in honoring and supporting members of the military community.
“We should never take for granted the tremendous sacrifices made daily by our nation’s military,” said Steve Speakes, executive vice president of USAA’s external affairs and a retired Army lieutenant general. “Together with the NFL, we are launching the Salute to Service Award as a way to recognize those in the NFL community who appreciate and honor that sacrifice, enrich the lives of military members and encourage others to do the same.”
Harbaugh was a driving force behind the Ravens’ Military Appreciation Day, a training-camp tradition since he was hired in 2008 that has offered an estimated 2,000 service members preferred seating and the opportunity to meet Ravens players and coaches.
Harbaugh, who has helped assemble care packages for soldiers overseas and has put together bundles of school supplies for military families, also often visits military bases with Ravens players. He made a mid-season appearance at the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, Calif., last December and spent a week in July 2009 in the Persian Gulf with New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin and others visiting service members based in the Middle East as part of an NFL-USO initiative.
“It made you feel proud to be an American,” Harbaugh, whose close friend Jim Minick is a colonel in the Marines, told NFL.com. “And I tell you one thing, it made me think about how fortunate and how blessed we are to have the freedoms that we have and to be an American citizen, and I’m not taking that for granted, I’ll tell you that.”
Jonas Shaffer is a sports reporting intern at The Baltimore Sun. The senior journalism major at the University of Maryland also serves as sports editor of The Diamondback. Contact him at email@example.com.