FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- After serving for 24 years in the U.S. Army, Col. John M. McHugh was killed in action on May 18, 2010, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Today, "Johnny Mac" continues to serve as an inspiration and positively impact the lives of many.
The Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund, established in his memory, supports those who have served in the military and honors their sacrifice by providing scholarships to veterans and military family members, particularly the children of those who fell in combat or suffered a disability.
A simple mission lies at the heart of the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund: "Time and again, our soldiers and their families are asked to give of themselves for the rest of us. While they ask little in return, we owe them so much. Through education, we give back to those who gave. We give back to 'Our Own.' It's the least we can do."
Since 2014, the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund has awarded nearly $6 million in scholarships to veterans and military family members. There are currently over 700 Johnny Mac Scholars attending schools across the country.
For the Atlanta Falcons, the NFL's Salute to Service* *initiative is more than just a week-long reminder. It symbolizes the importance of remembering men like McHugh, who continues to help make the world a better place.
From Nov. 3-12, the Falcons will hold their third annual Salute to Service week, honoring military veterans, active duty service members and their families with a week of events and programming as part of a long-term year-round commitment across the Blank Family of Businesses.
The organization is driven by a set of core values in which giving back to others lies at the heart. To that end, this deep commitment to serving the military spans the entire organization – from owner Arthur Blank and AMB Group, CEO Steve Cannon to head coach Dan Quinn, assistant coaches, players and associates.
Cannon, who graduated with honors from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, is Airborne Ranger-qualified and served as a first lieutenant in West Germany during the fall of the Iron Curtain, is the co-founder of the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund.
A classmate of McHugh's at West Point, Cannon wants to help provide for the children of the soldiers who have risked it all in defense of a better future.
"If you asked any soldier if you could take care of something while I'm gone, what would they say? They'd say, 'Take care of my wife, and take care of my kids,'" Cannon said. "The reason we came to education and came to children is because that was something that was so important to John. "If we can give something to these children that have given so much – they've given up their heroes; they've given up their moms; they've given up their dads – in the service of our country. And somehow, if we can step into a gap and take care of those kids through education, that is our mission."