On the eve of Super Bowl XLVII, Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was presented with the NFL's Salute to Service Award by USAA, the league's official military appreciation sponsor.
Tillman accepted the award, which recognizes those who honor and support members of the military community, at the "2nd Annual NFL Honors" award ceremony and gala Saturday evening in New Orleans.
|During Pro Bowl festivities last week in Hawaii, Charles Tillman poses with Jonathon Carpenter, a member of the Warrior Transition Battalion.|
As part of the award, USAA will contribute $25,000 in Tillman's honor to the aid societies representing all five military branches.
Familiarity and respect for the military community came to Tillman quickly in his early years. His father, retired Army Sergeant Donald Tillman Jr., served 20 years, and his childhood experience sparked the cornerback's desire to give back to the men and women who serve our country.
"The military has played an influential part in my life," Tillman said. "Throughout my dad's 20 years of service, he learned about teamwork, leadership and commitment, and he taught me those same values.
"I'm thankful not only for what the military has done for me, but for what the members of our military sacrifice for this country. I appreciate the men and women of the United States Army, Air Force, Marine Corp, Navy and Coast Guard for protecting our homeland. The next time you pass a soldier, sailor, marine or airman on the street, kindly walk up to them and say, 'Thank you for your time and service.'
"I am honored to be the recipient of the 2012 Salute to Service Award."
Tillman participated in an eight-day USO tour in Iraq and Kuwait after personally contacting the U.S. Army in 2010. He visited Camp Victory, Camp Buehring and Joint Base Balad, signing photos and sports memorabilia and sharing dinner with troops.
During the Bears' bye week this season, Tillman returned home to Fort Hood in Texas to visit the Darnall Army Medical Center, donating a "Charles' Locker" on behalf of his Cornerstone Foundation that was filled with iPads, notebook computers, DVD players, portable PlayStation game systems and other electronic handheld games to help patients pass the time during recovery and treatment.
Tillman also regularly conducts youth football camps on military bases, including the Army's Fort Hood and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms in California. At the 2013 Pro Bowl, Tillman and fellow NFL players visited Schofield Army Barracks to greet wounded warriors who recently returned from an extended deployment in Afghanistan.
In October 2012, 23 coaches, active and retired players, and team executives and personnel were nominated for the award by their clubs for demonstrating outstanding support for the military community. Each submission was evaluated by a panel of judges from the NFL and USAA, including Roger Staubach, Chad Hennings, Rocky Bleier and Jim Mora Sr.
Earlier this year, the panel named both Tillman and Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik finalists before officially selecting Tillman the 2012 award winner. Tennessee Titans owner K.S. "Bud" Adams was the award's inaugural recipient in 2011.
"Each Salute to Service Award nominee exemplifies the spirit of what we're trying to accomplish with the NFL, which is to inspire football fans to support and salute all veterans and members of the U.S. armed forces," said retired Army Lt. Gen. Steve Speakes, executive vice president of external affairs for USAA. "We congratulate Charles Tillman for being the 2012 Salute to Service Award winner, and thank him for his support of the military community."