A Cape Coral soldier and local sheriff's deputy has been chosen to participate next weekend in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl game.
Army Staff Sgt. Jason Ward, 37, was selected with approximately 100 soldiers to represent the military in the annual tradition, set for Jan. 7 in San Antonio, Texas. The game will be televised live on NBC at 1 p.m. EST.
Ward, a deputy with the Lee County Sheriff's Office for nearly six years, signed up for the Army 16 years ago. He put in 10 years of active duty, and he has spent the last six years as a proud member of the Army Reserves.
Slated to be deployed to Afghanistan in January 2013, Ward has been a special agent in the U.S. Criminal Investigation command for two years.
"I wanted to serve my country," he said of why he enlisted more than a dozen years ago. "I still feel the same way today."
After completing his active duty obligations, Ward looked to the LCSO.
"I felt the need to serve my community," he said.
Ward noted that the two jobs are comparable.
"A lot of times, I feel privileged and honored to be able to do what I've done around the world, then have the ability to serve my community," he said.
While serving in Iraq, an IED strike led to Ward receiving a Purple Heart in August 2004. He also received a Bronze Star for his actions overseas.
The best honor Ward has received with the LCSO was a few years ago. He and another deputy on Fort Myers Beach had to swim out a quarter mile and retrieve a woman who was apparently drowning. They helped her to safety.
Ward was recognized with the Life Saving Medal from the LCSO.
"Your actions have to result in the saving of a life of another," he said.
With the LCSO, Ward is assigned to the Pine Island-Gulf District.
During the U.S. Army All-American Bowl game, Ward and the other soldiers will be teamed up with 90 high school, all-star football players. The athletes and soldiers will participate in a number of activities leading up to the game.
Ward said there will be friendly competitions, dinners and an awards show. The players will be recognized for their sports achievements over the year.
"I was honored to be nominated and selected to go," Ward said.
"I'm looking forward to spending time with these high school super stars, and also to be able to spend the time with these soldiers that have been awarded such high honors," he said.
Manoucheka Attime, with the public relations firm Weber Shandwick, said Ward will be paired up with Jordan Diggs, a senior defensive back from Island Coast High School. Diggs was presented with his game jersey in November.
"The bowl game has been going on for over a decade," Attime said.
She noted that some prominent future professional players have taken part in the bowl game, including Adrian Peterson, Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow.
"They've had some great players come out of it," Attime said.
Soldiers selected to participate in the game must have received a Bronze Star or Army Commendation for "V" Device for valor, Silver Star or Purple Heart, and have served in Operations Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom.
They also must be recommended by their command sergeant major.
"He (Ward) works every day to make Americans safer," she said.
"It (the game) really just gives us a moment to highlight the work they've done," Attime said, adding that the game gets bigger every year. "I think it's just a great way to give back and work with these young students."
Nearly 38,000 showed up to the Alamo dome for the 2011 game.