Today, the NFL and USAA, an official NFL Salute to Service partner, announced the 2021 nominees for the eleventh annual Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. The Salute to Service Award recognizes NFL players, coaches, staff and alumni who demonstrate commitment to honoring and supporting military and veteran communities, as nominated by NFL clubs.
"The impact that the military has had on my life, from family and friends joining the military, and the ability to give back to service members who have sacrificed so much for me and the rest of the country, it's an honor to be nominated once again for this award," said Jensen. "This recognition is for all of the heroes who have served and continue to serve us."
Finalists are scheduled to be announced in January, and the recipient will be recognized at NFL Honors, a primetime awards special to air nationally the week of Super Bowl LVI.
"Now more than ever, it's essential that our nation come together to support and show appreciation for those Americans who are serving and have served our country, as well as their families," said Vice Admiral (Ret.) John Bird, USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs. "This year's nominees for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA all deserve special recognition for stepping up to support our military community, and we are encouraged to see this list of diverse nominees coming from all areas of the NFL organization."
Jensen has established himself as a leader on the Buccaneers offensive line – a close-knit unit that protects quarterback Tom Brady and serves as the offense's first line of defense. Off the field, many parallels exist involving the military and the Bucs' center, who has made Salute to Service efforts a priority through everyday relationships, outreach programs and gameday initiatives. Jensen's grandfather, Keith Palmer, served in Vietnam and Korea as a member of the Army's 101st Airborne Division. Jensen's uncle followed his footsteps into the Army, and Jensen's adopted brother, Alec Hatfield has served in the Marine Corps – having completed tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Given those ties, it is no surprise that Jensen has a special place in his heart for children of military families. One bond in particular is with a young boy named Cooper, whose father was tragically killed in action before Cooper was born. Through TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Jensen has stayed in contact with the family and for several years, Jensen has honored Cooper and TAPS through the NFL's annual My Cause, My Cleats initiative.
Relationships like the one Jensen has developed with Cooper inspire him to work with a variety of military outreach organizations. Annually, Jensen has supported the Buccaneers' Schwarzkopf Military Family of the Year Awards, which honors military families from each branch of the armed forces. He has also visited MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa through the USO Central Florida, has helped promote fundraising efforts for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, and helps lead the team's support for Military Day at Training Camp.
For all Buccaneers home games, Jensen ensures that local military families enjoy a special gameday experience. He has donated nearly $30,000 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation for his community ticket program "Jensen's G.I.'s" where a variety of military organizations receive this memorable opportunity. Benefitting organizations have included the USF Veteran Success Center, Wounded Warrior Project, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Liberty Manor for Veterans and the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation, among others.
Over the past year, Jensen found a new and unique way to make an impact: the center connected with the organization Southeastern Guide Dogs and provided a $25,000 donation to sponsor a service dog for a veteran – support that will provide companionship and daily assistance for a military service member recovering from injury. This effort, along with visiting local Veteran's Assistance hospitals and hosting zoom calls to support active-duty military families, is another example of the way the Bucs' center continues to give back to the local military community.
As the presenting sponsor of the Salute to Service Award, USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other financial services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, will contribute $25,000 in the recipient's name to official aid societies representing all U.S. military branches. The NFL will match USAA's contribution by donating an additional $25,000 to the awardee's military or veteran charity of choice.
The Salute to Service Award is part of the NFL and USAA's year-round commitment to recognize and honor the military and veteran community. Each year, the NFL and its 32 teams come together to honor, empower, and connect with members of the military as part of the NFL's Salute to Service initiative. The league's military appreciation efforts culminate in November with NFL Salute to Service games and other special events honoring and thanking veterans, active-duty service members and their families. The Buccaneers will showcase military appreciation tributes at Raymond James Stadium on November 22 when the team hosts the New York Giants on Monday Night Football for the Buccaneers' Salute to Service Game, presented by USAA.