The NFL has just announced that James Martin, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, will be one of three honorary captains to participate in the Super Bowl LV coin toss this coming Sunday.

There is a longstanding tradition that the NFL chooses people who have made a difference in their communities to serve as honorary captains. Martin and the two other captains will take part in the coin toss that determines which team will get the ball first to start off the big game.

“I’m absolutely astonished, humbled and surprised,” Martin told Fox News after the NFL’s announcement. He added that him being an honorary captain will make it so that “people can see that there are still ways — even though there’s a pandemic — to give back and answer the call when people need help.”

Martin went on to name the Wounded Warrior Project and Veterans Breakfast Club as two organizations that have been going above and beyond to help veterans throughout the pandemic. A father of eight children with his wife, Martin has spent much of the past year helping veterans stay in touch with one another in a world where social gatherings have not been possible.

Martin enlisted for the Marines back in 2000, and he served two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq before he was injured and paralyzed from the waist down in 2015. He qualified for medical retirement in the wake of this tragedy, and he has been working to help other veterans ever since. He stepped up his efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, knowing his fellow veterans needed to find ways to stay connected to others.

“I worked with Wounded Warrior Project. We opened up a Discord. It was meant to virtually connect veterans together during the pandemic,” he said. “We knew there was a large population of our veterans that we served that played video games, and this was one of the ways we could not only connect with them but to still be able to provide services and do programs with.”

Martin has seen firsthand the horrific toll this pandemic has taken on some veterans.

“It’s dark. It’s very trying,” he said. “We have people who are already battling demons. The last thing we need is to be socially isolated and away from absolutely everybody. So this is a means for us to connect and stay together, and even though we couldn’t be together physically, we could still do things together virtually.”

As for who he is rooting for going into the Super Bowl, Martin said that his “heart of hearts” is “going for the Chiefs” against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Martin’s fellow honorary captains will be educator Trimaine Davis and nurse manager Suzie Dorner.

“During this incredibly challenging time in our lives, Trimaine, Suzie, and James have exemplified the essence of leadership, each in their own way,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We are grateful for their commitment and proud to share their stories and recognize them during this special moment on Super Bowl Sunday.”

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