Locke honored for service to military

Jeff Locke was born a military “brat” and continues to recognize the military through his charitable efforts. The Vikings, in turn, recognized Locke for his work there.

On Tuesday, the NFL and USAA (United States Automobile Association), the league’s official military appreciation sponsor, announced the nominees for the Fourth Annual NFL Salute to Service Award. Teams nominate players, coaches and personnel who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community.

The Vikings nominated punter Jeff Locke as their selection for the 2014 award. Finalists will be announced in January with the winner announced at the annual NFL Honors awards show the night before the Super Bowl.

Locke has deep ties to the military and has always done what he could to promote causes that assist the men and women of the U.S. military. While in college, he organized a visit to the V.A. Hospital in Los Angeles. He and several of his UCLA teammates donated time to serve food and meet with the vets who were getting therapy.

His commitment to helping veterans took a big step forward last year thanks in part to the Vikings claiming quarterback Josh Freeman. While hindsight tells us that not much good came out of bringing Freeman to Minnesota, one benefit came from Locke having Freeman’s desired jersey number and working out a deal to help assist veterans.

“When Josh Freeman came in and he wanted my No. 12, he agreed that his form of payment was a $10,000 donation to the V.A. Hospital here in Minneapolis and we made a visit out of it,” Locke said. “I also work with an organization called Tee It Up For the Troops. We raise money golfing and you golf for veterans in order to raise money for V.A. hospitals and veterans organizations. I just try to give back. It’s one of the charitable organizations I like to give to on top of those that deal with sick children.”

Locke’s history with the military runs through the generations of his family and grew up on or around military facilities, which gave him an insight to the life and troubles that veterans throughout the world face.

“Both of grandparents and my dad all served in the military,” Locke said. “My dad was in the service for 20-plus years and he served from 1978 to 1999. His deployments changed all the time. He was in Korea for a while. He was in Germany for a while. He was kind of all over.”

By his own admission, Locke was a “military brat” – a term given to the children of military personnel who, because of the often-nomadic lifestyle that the men and women of the U.S. military face, spent much of his early life traveling with his parents due to his father’s job. He doesn’t have clear recollections of it because he was very young at the time and his father retired while Locke was still a child, but he wears his “brat” distinction with honor and pride.

“I was born an Air Force brat,” Locke said. “I was born in Germany on an Air Force base there. It wasn’t as bad for me as it was for a lot of the other kids of the military who move quite a bit and have to leave friends behind. I was born in Germany and then we moved to Kansas, but I was too young to remember much of anything about either of those places. By the time I was old enough to have memories of childhood, we had moved to Arizona. That was where he was stationed until he retired.”

Locke said he was humbled by being selected as the Vikings’ 2014 nominee for the Salute to Service award, but, whether he had been recognized or not, it wouldn’t change his commitment to helping out veteran-related charitable causes. It’s been a part of his life since birth and he feels he gets as much in return for his efforts to assist veterans as he has given to them.

“I get a lot of gratification out of it,” Locke said. “The visit (Tuesday) was awesome. You have no idea what these vets are going through until you see it. Some of them have lost limbs. Others have a lot of challenges that they have to face because of their service to our country. If I can put a smile on their faces for a couple of hours, or if they’re going through a hard time somewhere down the road that they can look back on that visit and see something autographed by the Vikings and it helps them get through that next stage, that makes it worth it to me. Those people have given so much for all of us, I figure the least I can do is give back where I can to let them know that we appreciate the sacrifice so many of them have made for us.”

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