NFL Celebrates Female Veterans and Coaches in a ‘Salute to Service’

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Army veteran Yencris Baez, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lori Locust, Navy veteran Vanessa Thomas and WFT coach Jennifer King participate in the NFL's Salute to Service program 2021. (photo courtesy USAA)

The NFL and USAA have partnered on a "Salute to Service" campaign for more than a decade now. This year, they've found a new way to celebrate the contributions of military members.

The Nov. 14, 2021, game between the Washington Football Team and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is an historic one, because it marks the first time that female coaches have been on the staffs of both teams in an NFL game.

The NFL and USAA have made a video called "Women of First," celebrating both female veterans and female football coaches. They shared it on Twitter.

"The women in the military definitely inspire each other every day and we learn a lot of things," Yencris Baez, an Army veteran and women's veteran advocate said. "For instance, the art of being a mother, a sister, a daughter and the art of still being a soldier and being a strong woman."

Vanessa Thomas is a Navy veteran and women's veteran advocate. She was the first woman to be top of her class in accession training. "Being a child of the military, I decided to join," Thomas said. "My dad was really stressing the fact that I was entering a man's world, and that's how I always took it."

Lori Locust is the assistant defensive line coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and says, "For me, it's never been a gender-specific quest." Jennifer King is the assistant running backs coach for the Washington Football Team and says, "I never look ahead because I know that doing a really good job wherever I am will get me to the next position."

The video features the four women meeting on a football field and discussing what their respective roles have in common.

Fans will see Salute to Service tributes on the field at specific NFL games throughout the season, and the campaign will culminate in the announcement of the league's winner of the Salute to Service Award, presented by USAA, at the Super Bowl next February near Los Angeles.

Halfway through the season, the defending Super Bowl champion Bucs are cruising along at 6-2 and seem headed toward another championship run. The still-mascotless WFT, just a season after winning the NFC East and hosting a playoff game, is struggling at 2-6 and desperately needs a win if it's going to salvage its season.

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