GREEN BAY – No matter how bright Aaron Jones' star shines, the Packers running back continues to honor the upbringing that helped get him to where he is today.
The backbone for everything Jones has accomplished during his NFL career remains his military upbringing – his parents, Vurgess and the late Alvin Sr., both retired sergeants major in the U.S. Army after serving their country for 27 and 29 years, respectively; and Jones' brother, Xavier, an active member of the Air Force.
The effect of that background can be seen in the "Yes, sir; yes, ma'am" manner in which Jones handles the media and is evident in the outreach events he and his twin brother Alvin Jr. have organized through their A&A All The Way Foundation.
It's also led to Jones being honored as the Packers' nominee for the 2023 Salute to Service Award, which acknowledges the exceptional efforts by members of the NFL community to honor and support U.S. service members, veterans, and their families.
"It means the world to me, honestly," said Jones, who was also the Packers' nominee in 2018. "Growing up as a military brat, my parents served a combined 56 years. They put their life into it. For me to still be able to represent them in that way and get this nomination, I know my parents are very proud of me."
Jones knows firsthand the sacrifices military families make. He and Alvin Jr. moved around a lot while their parents were active service members, living in several different states and even spending part of their childhood in Germany.
For a time when Alvin Sr. and Vurgess were both deployed overseas, the two boys lived with their aunts and uncle in Virginia. Vurgess' extended family got the boys to school during the week while Alvin's side handled sports activities on weekends.
Back then, technology wasn't what it is today. There was no Zoom or FaceTime. The boys would anxiously wait for letters or phone calls from their parents. Jones recalled one time when his uncle drove him and Alvin Jr. to the airport to surprise them when Alvin Sr. flew back home from a tour of duty.
"You count the months, but you don't know the exact days," said Jones when recalling his father's return. "We weren't really putting two and two together like my dad is coming here. We walk into the airport and next thing I know I look up and my dad is walking to me, and we just ran up to him.
"My mom came back a couple months later. That seemed like eternity, though."
That's what makes the time spent together today so meaningful. Through the A&A All The Way Foundation, the Joneses have provided military families with joy-filled experiences, such as trips to the zoo and family movie nights. The Foundation's annual gala also raises money for military families, aimed at connecting them with the resources and care they need.
Jones has been a spokesperson for the Packers' Salute to Service efforts for many years and jumps at any opportunity he can to give back.
On Tuesday, both Aaron and Vurgess participated in the Packers' "Huddle for Heroes" event at The Turn, where players thanked military veterans for their service while penning letters to active-duty military members.
"With the military, we always try to find different ways to get involved," Jones said. "Anytime the Packers have anything that involves the military, I try to get involved as much as I can because that's near and dear to my heart."
In addition to his involvement with "Huddle for Heroes," Jones has sent videos to veterans, spoken with youth at military academies, and visited service members in the hospital and at military bases, including Fort Bliss in his native El Paso.
Last November, Jones spent time promoting Patriot K9s of Wisconsin, a nonprofit devoted to connecting veterans with trained service dogs, empowering them to rediscover their freedom and independence upon returning from military service.
Vurgess has joined her son on many of the excursions, telling her family's story and reminding both active and retired military members they are not alone.
"I really enjoy hearing my mom speak about it and just talking to other veterans and giving her perspective but keeping it real," Jones said. "Talking to them about mental health and that it's OK if you feel like you're not OK. If you need to go get help, that's OK."
While his father passed away a little more than two years ago, Aaron is proud to honor Alvin's memory and the sacrifices he made to his country. With the mantra of "Family Over Everything," Jones hopes to pass those lessons on to his own son and anyone he's fortunate enough to touch with his foundation.
"My dad is smiling down," Jones said. "I feel like the legacy continues to live on."
Returning this year, fans have an opportunity to vote for their favorite nominee to help determine the award's three finalists from now until Nov. 30. One vote per day, per fan is permitted.
The finalists of the award will be announced in January, and the recipient will be recognized at NFL Honors during the week of Super Bowl LVIII in February.