ARLINGTON, Texas (FOX 9) - Look for many tributes to America’s veterans during the NFL games this weekend. But immediately following the Vikings vs. Saints game on FOX 9, the NFL and FOX Sports will air a special halftime salute to Medal of Honor recipients during the Cowboys game against the Giants at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
"We’ve got about 16 Medal of Honor recipients coming to town that will be recognized on the field," said Chris Cassidy, the CEO and President of the Medal of Honor Museum.
The museum for the nation’s 3,517 Congressional Medal of Honor recipients is currently under construction about three blocks away from the Cowboy’s home turf. Its proximity was a natural fit for the Cowboy’s Veterans Day tribute.
"The NFL has a lot of places where they could put their energy," said Cassidy. "We’re very, very lucky to have that focused on us."
Cassidy knows something about service to the country. He served 28 years in the U.S. Navy, including 10 years in the Navy SEALs, one of the nation’s premier special warfare units. But he was far from done. In 2004, NASA selected Cassidy as an astronaut candidate, and he eventually flew into space on the shuttle Endeavour to the International Space Station (ISS). He returned two more times to the ISS on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Since leaving the space program, Cassidy has led the efforts to build a permanent museum for those Americans who have received the nation’s highest military honor.
"You know, it’s kind of an interesting thing about Medal of Honor recipients," said Cassidy while reflecting upon those he had met. "They all talk about how they are keepers of the medal for their teammates and for those that they served with."
But Cassidy also drew the parallel from their service to sports and, particularly, the NFL.
"The camaraderie, the teamwork, the nature of competing together and to get a mission done, winning a game, accomplishing your own mission in life, or charging the hill and the defense of freedom in that way," said Cassidy.
"Abraham Lincoln was the president that put this award in existence 160-plus years ago," said Cassidy about the symbolism of the new memorial. "In that trying time of the Civil War, they needed some way of recognizing valor and bravery and courage on the battlefield. And that was sort of the inception of the Medal of Honor."
Construction on the Medal of Honor Museum in Arlington, Texas is well underway. The massive museum will stand on top of five pillars, each pillar representing a branch of the military.
"The concept there is that the service members are supporting the burden of our nation with those pillars," said Cassidy.
This summer, construction crews placed the final beam on top of the museum in what’s called a topping out ceremony. The beam was signed by the construction crew along with Medal of Honor recipients. Cassidy says the organization is probably about a year and a half away from visitors coming through the front doors. When the museum is finished, it will not just pay tribute to those who’ve received the medal, but encourage visitors to join in service to the country.
"You can be locally in law enforcement or a first responder, or ER nurse, or whatever," said Cassidy about the different ways people can serve their communities. "And I think for me, personally, it’s appreciation for service at all levels."
When it is finished, the pentagon shaped building, mimicking the medal itself, will be seen from aerial shots of Cowboys games at AT&T Stadium, reinforcing the symbolism of the medal that President Lincoln established.
"It will be just one of those American images that stands for courage and sacrifice and what it means to serve. We hope it will do just that," said Cassidy.
Throughout the entire month of November, FOX is supporting efforts to help homeless veterans with its FOX Forward campaign. To learn more and make a donation, click here.