Safety Troy Polamalu is the Steelers nominee for the fourth annual Salute to Service Award.
Teams nominated players, coaches, personnel and alumni who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community.
Polamalu's passion for veterans is demonstrated by the foundation he established with his wife, named for her grandfather, Harry Panos, who fought in World War II. The fund supports those who bravely serve our country. Projects include working with the Pittsburgh VA hospitals to enhance their facilities for veterans, and partnering with Operation Once in a Lifetime (OOIAL) which works to make dreams of US soldiers and their families come true. For six years Polamalu has hosted various OOIAL groups of soldiers at a Steelers home game. In the aftermath of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, he invited 15 soldiers from the base, many of whom were severely wounded in combat. In 2010 he hosted 15 soldiers from six military installations around the United States. In 2011, 18 members from 10th Group Special Forces and Seal Team IV were Troy's guests. The Special Forces were actually flown in from Stuttgart, Germany and included the family of a soldier who was killed on his 6th deployment and was a huge fan but had never been to a game. In 2012 and 2013 Special Forces troops attended a game and this year he will once again welcome a group of soldiers to watch pregame warm-ups, be honored on the field and spend time with him after the game.
Troy Polamalu cuts his hair to benefit VFW.
Polamalu has also granted the wishes of several individual soldiers including an OOIAL terminally ill soldier whose wish was to go to Disney World with his family and another military family that needed a new van for their wheelchair-bound child. In 2010, he and many other Steelers starters took time out of their schedule to visit Bethesda Naval Hospital the day before the Sunday night game at Baltimore – something very few NFL teams have done. This season Polamalu, some of his teammates and the Rooneys visited Walter Reed Medical Center. He spent time talking with many patients and was moved by the courage of the soldiers who have suffered traumatic injuries in combat. The Steelers annually partner with the VA for "Heroes at Heinz Field" to engage recently returning local soldiers from Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. The soldiers and players gather on the Heinz Field turf where they participate in football drills. Even though the soldiers think they are meeting their "heroes," Troy and his teammates recognize that they are the ones meeting true American heroes. Troy and his wife Theodora have personally funded the foundation. In 2012 they held their first public fundraiser to share their passion for the military with Steelers Nation and garner additional support for our troops. A second fundraiser is planned for November. Polamalu has easily impacted the lives of thousands of U.S. service members and their families. He is truly what a soldier refers to a "Soldiers Soldier."
Finalists for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA will be announced in January, and the winner will be recognized at the "4th Annual NFL Honors" awards show in Arizona on NBC on Saturday, Jan. 31, the night before Super Bowl XLIX.