Head coach Ron Rivera has memories of the military tune Taps stretching back as far as he can remember.
"I grew up in that environment where [at] 5 p.m. every day the cannon would go off on the base and everybody, no matter where you were, you'd stop and face the flag as they brought it down and folded it up," Rivera said. "So, it does give me chills."
On Tuesday at 5 p.m., just as he has long done, Rivera turned and faced the flag as those 24 notes sounded. This time, though, the meaning and emotions behind them were amplified. The playing of Taps in front of the National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C., was part of a moment paying tribute to Rivera, recipient of the 2022 Salute to Service Award, presented by USAA, and his father Eugenio Rivera, a 32-year Warrant Officer in the U.S. Army and Vietnam veteran.
After remarks by Taps for Veterans' Jari Villanueva, Rivera took the podium and gave thanks to many, including the Taps for Veterans, the Doughboy Foundation and the NFL's Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility Anna Isaacson, who led efforts on the league side to help fund the World War I Memorial. He concluded with, "Dad and all you other Vietnam veterans, 'Thank you and welcome home.'"
Following the playing of the Taps by current active-duty trumpeter Kevin Paul, Rivera was bestowed with a series of framed American flags by Daniel Dayton, Chairman and CEO of the Doughboy Foundation and Executive Director of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. These flags were flown over the World War I National Museum and Memorial in Kansas City when it first opened, cemeteries in Europe where American World War I soldiers were laid to rest and then D.C. over the capital's installation.
Rivera was also presented with a Taps Across America pin and coin by Villanueva. In exchange for the gifts, Rivera handed both Dayton and Villanueva a Commanders challenge coin.
The items Rivera received will undoubtedly be cherished additions to his impressive assemblage of military paraphernalia. The collection is just one of the many ways the coach keeps recognition of service members front and center in his world. Rivera has been vocal about the importance of the military in his own life, and he reiterated that impact on Tuesday.
"Growing up in a military family, one of the first things you learn is, not just chain of command, but the discipline that comes with it and the responsibility," Rivera said. "That's probably the biggest thing I try to instill every day in our coaches and in our players.
For how he has carried forth military values, given back to the military community and more, Rivera was honored in February with the 2022 Salute to Service. Upon his reception of the award, the coach noted his military veteran father Eugenio was "very proud."
"When I won the award, it was an amazing thing for him, and I know it meant a lot to him just because, having gone through that, we really feel the sense of pride that dad has in his military experience," Rivera said.
Pride in service and sacrifice punctuated the air all around Tuesday's ceremony, which brought new memories of the Taps song that Rivera will not soon forget.
"It's very humbling. The opportunity to come out gives thanks to the World War I veterans that gave so much and just showing appreciation, and it's also an opportunity for me to honor my father," Rivera said. "To be able to come out and honor him and have somebody else honor him is really a special moment for us."