Mark Dominik has made it his personal mission to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Bay area recognize the sacrifices made by members of the military, and to support servicemen and women in everything they do. Now Dominik himself is being recognized for his efforts, in prestigious fashion.
On Sunday, during halftime of the Atlanta Falcons-Seattle Seahawks Divisional Playoff Game, the NFL announced that Dominik is one of two finalists for the second annual Salute to Service award. Last year, the inaugural Salute to Service Award went to Tennessee Titans Owner Bud Adams; this year, it will belong to either Dominik or Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman.
Dominik and Tillman were chosen from a very impressive list of 22 candidates, all of whom were nominated by their NFL teams in November. Among those who were also in the running were Adams, New York Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin, Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh (also a 2011 finalist), New York Jets Owner Woody Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and Falcons wide receiver Roddy White.
Dominik's selection as a finalist is an indication of the depth and impact of his many programs designed to enrich the lives of veterans and active-duty members of the military, and to draw attention to the vital service they provide all Americans. Inspired by personal experience – both his father and brother served in the Navy, and many other members of his family and his wife Amy's family have also worked in the military – Dominik has championed the cause of giving back to our nation's armed forces. He has done so locally by initiating community outreach programs that directly assist active and retired servicemen and women from all branches of the military.
Dominik was deeply honored by Sunday's announcement, and he shared the credit with the Buccaneers for joining him in his outreach efforts and provided the necessary support.
"It's something that I find and my family finds so easy to support, as does the entire Buccaneers organization," he said. "I'm proud to say that our military is important not only to me but to our entire organization. This organization was named a finalist just as much as I was, because we all work together to make sure the Bay area understands that we really do appreciate everything our military does for us."
Through the annual Salute to Service Award, the NFL and USAA team up to recognize excellence in appreciation of military service carried out by NFL coaches, players and staff. The award aligns with USAA's commitment to serving the military and their families while highlighting the NFL's long history of honoring the armed forces and veterans.
Dominik is always looking for new ways to reach out to servicemen and women. For instance, this past August, he revealed the home renovations for retired U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Andy Bernt. The military home renovation project – the second of which Dominik has helped coordinate – was carried out through a $40,000 team donation and the support of Buccaneers staff, Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay and C1 Bank. Bernt, a retired emergency rescue responder who has battled Stage 4 Lymphoma and is paralyzed, now benefits from a complete house renovation thanks to these efforts.
Dominik has also displayed a passion for helping local members of the military with personal and professional development. He was instrumental in organizing the Central Florida Military Resource Fair the Buccaneers held at Raymond James Stadium in November. The free event offered a job fair with federal, state and local employers, as well as interview skill development and resume assistance. Working through the team's growing relationships with local military groups, Dominik helped ensure that Bay area armed forces reaped the benefits of a unique and valuable afternoon.
For the past three years, Dominik has visited James A. Haley VA Hospital during the week of Veterans Day to greet servicemen young and old who are recovering from injury and illness. In November, he led a group of Buccaneers players on a visit to the US Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater to help serve lunch to more than 200 Coast Guard members in appreciation of their service.
New to Buccaneers home games this past season was the "Salute to Service Suite," established by Dominik to honor local heroes. At every home game, more than a dozen local military members rooted on the team from a luxury suite and were given a standing ovation when honored over the stadium's public address system. During each home contest, "Dominik's Den" also continued to offer 24 military members front row seats and a chance to watch warmups from the field, where the Bucs' G.M. greets each guest with a specially-made Buccaneers military challenge coin, a staple for Dominik whenever shaking the hand of those who've served. And he remains an auxiliary member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #4321, for which he has helped host an annual fundraiser.
Dominik, who was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Salute to Service Award in 2011, not only showcases the Buccaneers' and NFL's appreciation for our country's military but also continues to tirelessly rally the community's support around those who serve and sacrifice for others. This year, his dedication to the cause has taken him a step further, to the two-person list of finalists, and perhaps eventually to the award itself. The Salute to Service Award will be presented to the winner during the NFL Honors show on CBS on the evening of Saturday, February 2.
"It's an honor," Dominik reiterated. "Again, it's a team effort here. It's something the owners, the Glazer Family, has supported as well. We do the Salute to Service event with the luxury suite at every home game, in which we bring people that serve our military to the stadium and show our fans some of the people that are doing great things for us. There are little things that we're able to do as an organization to raise awareness, anything we can do to help. This is truly an honor because it's something I'm passionate about and we're passionate about. To see the NFL recognize what our level of passion is for our military, what we try to do as an organization, is great."