For Dana, a third-year member of the Eagles Cheerleaders, the squad's visit last month to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia brought back vivid memories of one of the darkest days in our nation's history.
Eighteen years ago, Dana's father, Gregory, was at the Pentagon for business on 9/11, when a hijacked airplane crashed into the headquarters for the United States' Department of Defense and killed nearly 200 people. A senior audit manager for the General Services Administration, Gregory routinely visited the D.C. area on business.
Just a seventh-grade student at the time, Dana was picked up from school early that morning by her mother, Cheryle, and spent the day at her aunt's house waiting for the call that he was indeed OK.
While at the Pentagon, Dana visited the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, signed the book of condolences and remembrances, and met with Anne Kimberley Joiner, the deputy assistant to the Secretary of Defense.
Dana's family has numerous ties to our armed forces. Her one grandfather, Dominic Balsama, was an airman for the 49th Fighter Bomber Wing in the Korean War. After the Air Force, Balsama joined the Army Reserves and became a first-class sergeant.
Her other grandfather, John Pasqualone, was an Army corporal and served in Europe during World War II as part of the 10th Mountain Division that traversed the mountains of Italy.
Inspired by her family members, Dana pursued opportunities to work with organizations that emphasize community service in and around her hometown of Washington Township, New Jersey. In 2016, at the behest of the groups that she worked with, she ran for town council and won.
"Over the years, I developed a desire to want to give back to the community in a way bigger than myself," Dana says. "I couldn't really say no because all of my family members have helped other people in some way or have served our country and it was my turn to do the same."
Dana's commitment to serving others led her to joining the Eagles Cheerleaders in 2017.
"Community service is my passion. It's honestly the reason why I joined the Eagles Cheerleaders and the NFL because they do so much for the community and the Salute to Service being a major component," Dana says. "We pay tribute to the military at every single game. I don't think it's a specific game or a specific month for us. We really make it a point to be involved all year with Salute to Service and giving thanks to everything that they do for our country.
"I think about my family members every time I listen to the national anthem. I'm thankful and appreciative of all the family members and everybody that has served in the military and the Armed Forces."