It was an epic finish at Super Bowl LI in Houston – and an epic weekend for the USO and the NFL around the world.

Leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, thousands of service members and military families stationed near Houston were treated to a Salute to Service BBQ on Jan. 31. The USO, the NFL and the hometown Houston Texans teamed up to provide an afternoon of food, live music, games and prizes.

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The USO, the NFL and the Houston Texans teamed up to host the Salute to Service BBQ at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base on Jan. 31 near the site of Super Bowl LI. Thousands of service members and military families stationed near Houston enjoyed an afternoon of food, live music, games and prizes.

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The USO, the NFL and the Houston Texans teamed up to host the Salute to Service BBQ at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base on Jan. 31, near the site of Super Bowl LI. Thousands of service members and military families stationed near Houston enjoyed an afternoon of food, live music, games and prizes.

On Saturday evening at the NFL Honors awards show, FedEx named its Air and Ground NFL Players of the Year – Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott – and donated $50,000 each to USO of Georgia and USO Dallas/Fort Worth in the players’ names.

Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, both USO tour veterans, also received awards during the evening event. Fitzgerald, who went on a USO/NFL tour to Southwest Asia in 2009, shared the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award with New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Quinn, who joined four of his Falcons players on a USO/NFL tour to Hawaii and Guam in June, received the Salute to Service Award for his support of service members, veterans and military families.

In advance of the big game, Super Bowl care packages – boxes stuffed with hats, shirts, water bottles and footballs – were delivered to more than 60 USO locations around the world to make sure service members and their families had everything they needed to celebrate the American tradition known as Super Bowl Sunday.

Throughout every football season – from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, to Alaska and everywhere in between – NFL games help keep our men and women in uniform connected to family, home and country – no matter where they serve.

“Game day is a rare chance to kick back and forget the dangers these warfighters must face every day,” said Grant McCormick, the area director of USO Rhein Main in Germany. “Few things remind them of home as much as watching an NFL game with friends.”

The service members and family members who visited USO locations on Sunday had lots of reasons to cheer and lots of friends to cheer with. At USO Camp Lemmonier, located on the Horn of Africa, hundreds showed up to watch the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons face off for the NFL championship. Hundreds more serving in Turkey, on the front lines in the fight against ISIS, enjoyed an immense spread of food and one of the all-time great finishes in Super Bowl history.

The Patriots, a slight favorite entering the game, erased a 28-3 deficit to edge the Falcons 34-28 in overtime. The comeback victory, the largest in Super Bowl history, was the franchise’s fifth world championship in 16 seasons.

The game was also on in Afghanistan, where service members at our center in Kandahar appreciated the opportunity the escape the stress of deployment for a few hours. At USO locations across Europe, the Pacific and the United States, the scenes were similar – great food, great friends and a great NFL game.

The worldwide celebrations kicked off the NFL’s Salute to Service partnership with the USO, which builds on the organizations’ storied, 51-year alliance by delivering a year-round platform for the NFL and its 32 teams and players to recognize, honor and celebrate our nation’s military and their families from Super Bowl LI to Veterans Day.

“The NFL is proud to work with the USO to provide year-round programs and resources to service members,” NFL Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility Anna Isaacson said in a release. “We are committed to honoring our nation’s military and helping keep them connected to family, home and country.”

In 2016, the NFL’s three-year, $5 million commitment to the USO ensured our nation’s preeminent sports league and its iconic military service organization will continue to work together – as they have for generations – to support our men and women in uniform.

“[The] NFL’s years of support to the USO and the service members we serve is incredible,” USO CEO and President J.D. Crouch II said. “We praise the NFL’s generosity, access and appreciation for those who serve our country and need a touch of home.”

You can send a message of support and thanks directly to service members via the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Your messages will appear on screens at USO locations around the world.