Bears' Jimmy Graham named Salute to Service award finalist

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Jimmy Graham named Salute to Service award finalist originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The NFL and USAA announced on Thursday that Bears tight end Jimmy Graham has been named one of three finalists for their Salute to Service Award. The award goes to a player in the league who “best demonstrated support for the military community.

In addition to playing tight end for the Bears, Graham also has the Jimmy Graham Foundation, which works “to provide life changing and impactful experiences through the freedom of flight.  To recognize the accomplishments and sacrifices of veterans of all eras and provide flights for unfamiliar and underprivileged youth as an introduction to aviation.” Part of that work includes taking veterans for flights on planes that they piloted during their tours of duty. In 2021, Graham took over 50 veterans on flights in his US Army aircraft restorations.

“There's a lot of families that are affected daily, not only by our current and past wars, but even as far as Vietnam,” Graham said last month about his foundation. “So you know, I, on a daily basis in the offseason, look to give out those experiences and connect families. That's one of the cooler things I've been able to do. I have generations into these experiences, and have a lot of these older men and women be able to share their experiences in war, and their experiences in life, with their own kids that have never heard these stories. It's truly special and I'm grateful that I have the ability to do that and to facilitate those experiences.”

Graham grew up in a military family, so he understands firsthand the sacrifices that military kids, parents and spouses all make. He’s also taken some teammates on flights, and said their curiosity about his foundation has led to bigger discussions about NFL players’ unique ability to make an impact in their communities.

“Just showing that we all have this platform,” Graham said. “We all have this big voice, that you’ve got to reach out, especially once you get established in the NFL, you need to reach out and give out the helping hand. Always looking to give out equal opportunity everywhere and to help everyone else have those equal opportunities in life.”

Graham also earned the Bears’ nomination for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his work with his foundation.

The other finalists for the Salute to Service Award are former Ravens player Jarret Johnson and Broncos fullback/tight end Andrew Beck.

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