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Tillman wins Salute to Service Award
February 4th, 2013

Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation, prolanthropyGrowing up in a military family and living on Army bases in Kansas, California, Texas and Germany, Charles Tillman gained a great appreciation for those who serve our country.

On Saturday evening, the Bears cornerback was presented with the NFL’s 2012 Salute to Service Award, which recognizes those who honor and support members of the military community.

Tillman accepted the prestigious award at the “2nd Annual NFL Honors” award ceremony and gala in New Orleans on the eve of Super Bowl XLVII. The award was presented by USAA, the NFL’s official military appreciation sponsor. As part of the honor, USAA will contribute $25,000 in Tillman’s name to the aid societies representing all five military branches.

Tillman’s father, Army Sergeant Donald Tillman Jr., is retired from the military after two decades of service.

“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 for not only 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 Corps, 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.”

In 2010, Tillman joined New York Giants center Shaun O’Hara on an eight-day USO tour to visit troops in Iraq and Kuwait. The two NFL players traveled to Camp Buehring and Camp Virginia in Kuwait, spent three nights in Baghdad and flew over Saddam Hussein’s former palace complex in a Black Hawk helicopter.

Tillman and O’Hara flew into Joint Base Balad in Iraq for a meet-and-greet with service members, signed photos and sports memorabilia, and had dinner with troops.

Tillman ran into several of his former high school classmates from Fort Hood in Texas. He also spent time with his youth mentor, Master Sergeant Curtis Pitts and his wife Sergeant First Class Tamla Pitts; as well as Tillman’s uncle Sergeant First Class Shaun Silas.

“Coming from a military background and just knowing what [the troops] go through on a daily basis in a war, the least Shaun and I could do was to go over there and thank them for what they’re doing—and most importantly let them know that they’re not forgotten,” Tillman said at the time.

During the Bears’ bye week this season, Tillman returned home to Fort Hood 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 has conducted youth football camps at Fort Hood and other military bases.

During Pro Bowl festivities last week in Hawaii, Tillman and fellow NFL all-stars visited Schofield Army Barracks to greet wounded warriors who recently returned from an extended deployment in Afghanistan. The NFC and AFC squads also practiced at a Pearl Harbor military base in front of thousands of service members and their families.

Last October, 23 NFL coaches, active and retired players, and team executives and personnel were nominated for the Salute to Service Award. Each submission was evaluated by a panel of judges from the NFL and USAA, including Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, ex-Steelers running back Rocky Bleier and former NFL coach Jim Mora Sr.

In January, Tillman and Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik were named the two finalists.

“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.”