ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —**The Denver Broncos have nominated offensive guard Ben Garland for the NFL Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. The award was created to acknowledge the exceptional efforts by members of the NFL community to honor and support U.S. service members and veterans.
Garland played college football at Air Force Academy and was sworn into the Colorado Air National Guard, where he currently works as a public affairs officer and was promoted to the rank of captain this spring. Garland, in conjunction with the Air Force and the U.S. Department of Defense, has worked through the "Palace Chase" program to transition into the reserve and hold a civilian job after two years of active service, allowing him to pursue his NFL dream.
"I always wanted to be an Air Force officer but I always dreamed of playing in the NFL," Garland said. "It was like weighing one dream against the other. I'm happy with my decision."
Garland is in his first season on the club's active roster after spending the 2012-13 seasons on the practice squad. He saw his first career snaps on offense and special teams on Sunday in the team's 41-17 win against the Oakland Raiders.
"He actually still serves his country as well as plays football for the Denver Broncos, and I don't think that's going on a lot around America today," Broncos Head Coach John Fox said.
Garland continues to support the military and their families through his work with club's community platforms in addition to his personal initiatives. He spent time visiting with participants in the team's USAA Military Combine at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in August and has visited Fort Carson to meet with soldiers.
The Colorado native has become an integral part of the team's high school football programs, supporting the team's High School Games of the Week presented by the Colorado National Guard and by speaking to students in the metro Denver area about his unique military and football experience.
Garland also serves as the Executive Director of the SoDE Solution, a nonprofit organization that works to end sex trafficking and was founded by a group of his fellow Air Force cadets.
He eventually plans to return to the Air Force, continuing to support the military through direct service.
"I love the Air Force and it will be my career when football is over," Garland said. "But right now I like to say I get to wear the two best uniforms in the world and I'm proud to wear them."
Each of the 32 NFL teams submitted a nominee who demonstrates an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community to be considered for the award. A blue ribbon panel comprised of former NFL players and coaches who served in the military, NFL and USAA executives will decide the award winner.
The 2014 Salute to Service Award winner will have a $25,000 donation made in his/her name to the Military Aid Societies of each branch of service by USAA. The award's two finalists will be announced during the postseason and the 2014 award recipient will be announced at the NFL Honors Awards Show the night prior to Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona.
For more information about the NFL's Salute to Service Award and the full list of nominees, please visit www.nfl.com/salute.