Although still reveling in his second Super Bowl crown in five years, Coughlin was both humbled and, at times, speechless as Army Chief of Staff Raymond T. Odierno — a noted Big Blue fan from Dover, N.J. — toasted him and four others near Arlington National Cemetery for their volunteer work with the military.
Coughlin wasn’t the only NFL head coach honored during a theatrical annual fort ceremony called Twilight Tattoo — the Ravens’ John Harbaugh also was on hand to be recognized — but the usually gruff Giants boss admitted he was almost moved to tears by his Outstanding Civilian Service Award.
A GIANT HONOR: Giants coach Tom Coughlin receives the Outstanding Civilian Service Award from U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, at a ceremony yesterday at Fort Myers, Va. Coughlin was one of a handful of NFL coaches to be honored for their volunteer work with the military.
“When the general was standing there reading off that stuff about me, it was almost like I was saying to myself, ‘Who’s he talking about?’ ’’ Coughlin told The Post after the hour-long celebration overlooking the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building.
“It was unbelievable to me,” continued Coughlin, who was accompanied to the event by wife Judy. “The patriotism just came pouring out of me with all of the pomp and circumstance and standing there next to a four-star general. That’s what you call humbling.”
The Army honored Coughlin for allowing soldiers and the families to attend practices and games, for repeatedly visiting wounded soldiers at both Walter Reed Medical Center and other installations and for flying to Iraq in 2009 as part of a USO tour with John Harbaugh, Jeff Fisher, Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden.
Odierno noted the awkwardness of honoring the coach of the Giants in the backyard of the NFC East rival Redskins, but Coughlin received nothing but loud applause and picture requests from a large crowd made up mostly of civilians and schoolchildren bused in from Ohio, North Carolina and elsewhere.
The Giants had an on-field OTA workout earlier yesterday at their Meadowlands complex, but Coughlin said that wasn’t going to keep him from accepting an award that Odierno had told him six months ago would be coming.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to accomplish a lot in my coaching career, but this stacks right up there,” Coughlin said. “This means the world to me.”
Attending the ceremony was even more special to Coughlin because he is a huge military history buff, and Fort Myer is the traditional home of the Army Chief of Staff.
Coughlin could barely contain his awe at being honored just yards from where former chiefs of staff Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley and John Pershing all lived.
“Just thinking about that aspect of it blows me away,” said Coughlin, who will be back in the area June 8 along with his players and staff to be honored by President Obama at the White House for their Super Bowl win.
Last night’s elaborate ceremony almost didn’t come off — at least not outdoors — thanks to a heavy thunderstorm that struck the base just minutes before the event was scheduled to begin.
But after a roughly 40-minute delay, the show went on — featuring everything from an artillery salute to soldiers reenacting moments from the Revolutionary War and Vietnam.
Odierno, who became Chief of Staff last September and has visited the Giants numerous times, seemed at times almost as in awe of Coughlin as Coughlin was of the four-star general.
“You’re talking about someone who has really dedicated himself over a long period of time to caring about our soldiers and their families,” Onierno told The Post. “His dedication to the military is quite significant.”
Asked jokingly if the fact he also bleeds Giant blue had anything to do with Coughlin’s award, Odierno smiled and shook his head.
“Absolutely nothing to do with that,” he said. “Absolutely everything to do with what he’s done for the military.”
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