DALLAS — The year was 1976. It was 200 years after the Second Continental Congress declared independence from the British Crown, and a team called the Dallas Cowboys was on their way to an NFC East crown playing football in North America.
Hall of Fame safety Cliff Harris spent his entire NFL career with the Cowboys from 1970-79, and thought the team's red, white, and blue striped helmets worn throughout the entire 1976 campaign was a nice way to honor the United States of America's history.
"What better way to celebrate our 200th year than putting a red, white, and blue stripe down the Dallas Cowboys’ helmet," Harris told WFAA. "I think it was very patriotic."
Linebacker Lee Roy Jordan, who was with the Cowboys from 1963-76, was also pleased to wear the red, white, and blue stripes that season.
"I am so glad we wore those stripes and honored our heroes," Jordan told WFAA.
Then-president and general manager Tex Schramm presented the helmet as another way to use subliminal messaging that the Cowboys were a national brand, not just confined to the Metroplex. The Cowboys in 2021 are bringing back the patriotic stripes in Week 9 against the Denver Broncos at AT&T Stadium to honor the nation's armed forces and Medal of Honor recipients at the Salute to Service game on Sunday.
"This will truly be a special day for all of us as we salute the men and women around the world who protect and defend our country," Cowboys executive vice president and chair of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation Charlotte Jones Anderson said in a statement.
The Cowboys will have eight Medal of Honor recipients in attendance to represent the 3,508 recipients in the award's history.
"The red stripe on the helmet provides a beautiful ribbon to wrap around this salute to those who currently serve our country's military — and the patriotic love and appreciation that we all share for those who came before them," Anderson said.
For Harris, the Cowboys honoring the armed forces is momentous given his father, O.J. "Buddy" Harris, served in the Army Air Corps in World War II and was shot down flying a Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter plane over the South China Sea.
"He was on a raft for a day and a half and survived," said Harris. "So, I was really proud of him."
Jordan says he had three brothers who were in service, but never saw combat.
Military service was a key part of what made the Cowboys attractive in the 1970s. Coach Tom Landry was a member of the 860th Bombardment Squadron in the European Theater in World War II, flying over 30 combat missions as a copilot on a B-17 Flying Fortress. The eventual two-time Super Bowl-winning coach also survived a crash landing when his bomber ran out of fuel.
Of course, there is always Roger Staubach, who graduated from the Naval Academy and served in Vietnam before joining the Cowboys in 1969 as a 27-year-old rookie.
Factor those accolades together with Dallas being 11 seasons deep into their 20 consecutive winning seasons, with playoff appearances in 18 of those years, five Super Bowl appearances, two championships, and 26 nationally televised games, including an annual game on Thanksgiving, and it is understandable how the Cowboys earned the brand of "America's Team."
Said Harris: "It was only fitting we had the title 'America's Team' with Captain America [Staubach] as our QB."
The Cowboys have a different style of Captain America with Dak Prescott, who may return for Dallas after missing Week 8 with a calf strain. No matter the quarterback, the Cowboys' red, white, and blue striped helmets represent a timeless reverence for the nation's armed forces.
"I'm a big supporter and I back the Cowboys, and I'm proud of what they're doing," Harris said.
"We respect those service members so much," said Jordan.
Are you excited to see the Cowboys in the commemorative helmets on Sunday? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.