Bears celebrate Salute to Service at Soldier Field
Story by Gabby Hajduk, photos by Jacob Funk and MaryKate Drews
ChicagoBears.com highlights the team's efforts around Thursday night's Salute to Service game against the Panthers at Soldier Field.
To celebrate the NFL's annual Salute to Service initiative — which honors, empowers and connects fans with the nation's service members, veterans and their families —the Bears, in collaboration with USAA, made Thursday night's game a special event for all in attendance.
Along with all the special celebrations for the Salute to Service game, the Bears' stadium itself is dedicated to World War I U.S. soldiers and is a Chicago landmark. Fans can always explore the different ways Soldier Field honors veterans and service members, which includes the main dedication to soldiers at the south entrance, the historic colonnade level that features plaques honoring Illinois residents who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Memorial Water Wall.
Stationed in the southeast lawn was the USO Mobile Vehicle, which provides service members support and a sense of community. The Salvation Army, who partners with the Bears for their annual Coat Drive, was also outside of Soldier Field collecting donations.
Fans could also donate coats at Thursday's game.
As fans made their way inside Soldier Field at 5:15 p.m., they were handed customized Salute to Service rally towels and met with a couple photo opportunities around the concourse, including at the Doughboy Statue, which honors World War I soldiers.
The U.S. Army also had a group of representatives in the south courtyard.
The Road Home Program had staff stationed at the United Club Charity Table under the South escalator to distribute information about their services, which includes confidential mental health support for veterans and their families.
During warmups and throughout the game, the Bears featured Salute to Service signage all across the field including in the end zone and the stands.
During the pregame festivities, the Golden Knights — the U.S. Army Parachute Team — performed a night jump, creating illuminated visuals in the night sky as they fell from an aircraft onto the field.
For player introductions, U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Greg Bluethmann led the team out of the tunnel with the United States flag.
U.S. Air Force veteran Mark J. Lindquist performed the national anthem and was accompanied by 80 military members on the field. The U.S. Transportation Command Joint Service Color Guard was present to represent all military branches. A fireworks display was also shown at the end of the national anthem.
The Bears named retired Army Sergeant Bryan Anderson Thursday's honorary captain. Anderson served two tours in Iraq and has received a purple heart. He accompanied captains Justin Fields, DJ Moore, Tremaine Edmunds and Eddie Jackson at midfield for the coin toss. He was joined by Retired United States Navy Command Master Chief Mike Magnetta of USAA Military Affairs and Commanding General of the U.S. Army, General Andrew Poppas.
During timeouts or breaks in the game, the Soldier Field videoboard featured shoutouts for active military members worldwide.
Later in the game, General Poppas was honored as the Boeing Military Salute recipient. He also met with Bears chairman George H. McCaskey.
The U.S. Army Band "Downrange" served as the halftime performance.
Fans across the stadium made special signs and wore Salute to Service clothing to Soldier Field, expressing their support of the nation's service members, veterans and their families.