Four 100-year-old World War II veterans will play a special role during Super Bowl LIV.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Friday that Col. Charles E. McGee will perform the coin toss at the beginning of the game. He will be joined by Staff Sgt. Odón Sanchez Cardenas, Lt. Col. Samuel Lombardo and Cpl. Sidney Walton.
“As we culminate the NFL’s 100th season, we’re extremely proud to honor four World War II veterans celebrating 100 years of life, Goodell said. “These four men deserve our gratitude for their tremendous contributions to the United States of America and we’re thrilled to recognize their service on the country’s largest stage.”
According to the NFL’s press release, McGee was born in 1919 in Cleveland, Ohio, and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942, joining the Tuskegee Airmen. He was stationed in Italy and flew tactical missions attacking enemy airfields and strategic missions.
McGee flew a total of 136 combat missions before returning to the U.S. in December 1944. Two months ago, Congress awarded McGee an honorary promotion to Brigadier General.
Lombardo was born in 1919 in Italy and moved to the U.S. a decade years later. In 1939, he enlisted in the 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th Division, Pennsylvania National Guard as a Private and later became a commissioned officer.
Under combat conditions, Lombardo and his men made an American flag with whatever materials they had available. The flag became the first to cross the Remagen Bridge during the war and it is now on display at the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning. Lombardo received a Silver Star and Bronze Star for his service.
Born in 1919 in Texas, Cardenas began his service with the U.S. Army in 1941 as a Private First Class at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. He was deployed to France during WWII and later moved to Belgium. In 1945, he was captured and held at a POW camp in Germany.
After two weeks of imprisonment, he was liberated and returned to the U.S. For his service, Cardenas was awarded an American Defense Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and a European African Middle Eastern Service Medal and three Bronze Stars.
Born in New York City in 1919, Walton enlisted in the Army in 1941. During the war, he was sent to India and served in the China-Burma-India Theater, eventually rising to the ranks of corporal. After the war, he returned to the U.S., got married, and worked as a chemical engineer.
Walton is currently on his “No Regrets Tour,” visiting every state in the country to raise awareness of the diminishing number of WWII veterans. President Donald Trump has hosted Walton and his family in the Oval Office.
Super Bowl LIV, held at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, airs live at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox.