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Honoring Operation Linebacker I & II | Salute to Service

The Chiefs have created custom patch and shadow box to honor Operation Linebacker I & II for Salute to Service 2022

The Story Behind the Shadow Box


The idea to produce and present an Operation Linebacker I & II-themed shadow box began with an active-duty Army officer participating in a career transition internship with the Chiefs. The officer was motivated and informed by the Salute to Service patch ideation discussions they had with Cale Kirby, Chiefs Assistant Equipment Manager, and Chuck Castellano, Chiefs Director of Community Outreach.

The three discussed the details and agreed conceptually on the way forward. Thanks to the efforts of many individuals and organizations, the military shadow box was greenlit. It would include several special items that would honor USAF Capt. Robert Thomas, an Air Force Officer killed-in-action during Operation Linebacker II, and his son Derrick Thomas, former Chiefs Linebacker and Hall of Fame inductee.

The Club intends to install the Operation Linebacker I & II shadow box at a fitting location within one of the franchise's prominent properties. It will be displayed in a manner that honors football and military tradition, inspires our fans and unites our community.

The Details of the Shadow Box

The black and white picture of USAF Capt. Robert Thomas was provided by the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.


The black and white picture of Derrick Thomas was provided by Chiefs Team Photographer Steve Sanders.


The B-52G Stratofortress Heavy Bomber Art is by award-winning artist, author and producer John Mollison, media advisor and contributor to the Distinguished Flying Cross Society (DFCS). This unique version is a historic representation of Charcoal 1, the callsign for the B-52G heavy bomber co-piloted by USAF Capt. Robert Thomas, father of Chiefs Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas. The print is signed by USAF Col. Ret. Robert Certain, a former POW, and one of the current Directors for the Distinguished Flying Cross Society. Col. Certain was the navigator aboard Charcoal 1 and a crewmate of Capt. Robert Thomas when was shot down on December 18, 1972. The artwork contains hidden script above the aircraft that reads "VENIT HORA," meaning "The Hour Has Come." Venit Hora was the motto of the 97th Bombardment Wing (Heavy), which Capt. Thomas was assigned to during Operation Linebacker II.

Bomber Art

The Charcoal Rubbing bearing the name ROBERT J THOMAS was taken from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, "The Wall," in Washington, D.C. Charcoal was used for the rubbing to pay homage to Capt. Thomas, co-pilot of Charcoal 1. US Army Colonel Chris Herrera, who is assigned to the Pentagon, secured the rubbing for the shadow box with the assistance of his wife Linda.


The 2022 Salute To Service Patch and Salute To Service Coin were designed by Chiefs Creative Director Jordan Giesler. Giesler drew inspiration from numerous official sources for all three elements. Click here for the story and details about the patch.

The coin is inspired by the challenge coins of the U.S. Military. It is made of metal and both sides are painted with colored lacquer. The coin is edged in silver and contains a white core and a red "KC" logo. The back of the coin reads: SALUTE TO SERVICE * KANSAS CITY CHIEFS * ESTABLISHED 1960.


Verification of information for the Salute to Service patch and the Operation Linebacker II shadow box items was provided by Eighth Air Force & Joint-Global Strike Operations Center, The United States Air Force Safety Center, the 8th Air Force Historian's office, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, The Air Force Historical Research Agency and Col. Ret. Robert Certain.

The Story Behind the Patch


The idea for this year's Salute to Service patch (S2S) began in the mind of Cale Kirby, the Chiefs Assistant Equipment Manager. Kirby knew that 2022 was the 50th Anniversary of Operation Linebacker I & II, the US strategic bombing campaign in 1972 designed to bring the North Vietnamese government to the negotiating table.

As the equipment manager, Kirby also knew of the connection between the operations and a former Chiefs player and Hall of Fame inductee, Derrick Thomas. USAF Capt. Robert J. Thomas, father of Derrick Thomas, was killed in action during Operation Linebacker II. 

It was Cale Kirby who suggested the patch theme to Chuck Castellano, Chiefs Director of Community Outreach. Castellano concurred and looped in an active-duty Army officer doing a career transition internship with the Chiefs to do some digging. 

What followed were several weeks of meticulous research and effort by the Chiefs team who ran down official records and primary sources to confirm details regarding Operation Linebacker, and specifically, the details surrounding Capt. Robert Thomas' death in 1972.

A breakthrough occurred when the Chiefs were contacted by Col. Ret. Robert Certain, a former Air Force navigator and Vietnam POW who served with Capt. Robert Thomas aboard the B52G Stratofortress callsign Charcoal 1. Charcoal 1 was shot down on December 18, 1972, after the aircraft was hit with two surface-to-air missiles. Two of the crew were killed instantly from the missile attack. The remaining crew parachuted from the flaming aircraft. Three would survive.

AFL Patch on Kansas City Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach sleeve during warmups at the stadium before Super Bowl 55 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021 in Tampa, Fla.

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The Details of the Patch

The overall patch shape and the miniature flaming spear inside the large "0" pays homage to the design and motifs gleaned from the patch of the 97th Bombardment Wing (Heavy), the Air Force unit Capt. Robert Thomas was assigned to during Operation Linebacker II.

Flaming Spear

The bottom scroll reads "Operation Linebacker I & II" in honor of those who served during these two operations.

Bottom Scroll

The large 50 represents the 50th anniversary of Operation Linebacker I & II and parallels the 50th anniversary of the opening of Arrowhead Stadium to the public.


The number 58 contained within a red circle with a yellow outline is a nod to the late Derrick Thomas, a former Chiefs player, Hall of Fame inductee and humanitarian who was tragically killed in an auto accident on February 8, 2000. Derrick wore the number 58 during his decade with the Chiefs.


The camouflage pattern on the patch matches the special camouflage paint job on Charcoal 1, the B52G Stratofortress Capt. Robert Thomas co-piloted during Operation Linebacker II.

Bomber Plane

Beneath the 58 is the silhouette of Charcoal 1, honoring those killed in action (KIA), missing in action (MIA) and those who became prisoners of war (POW)


The typefaces and fonts used throughout the patch mirror those that would have been used on the exterior of Charcoal 1.

Finally, the patch bears the distinctive white, black and red arrowhead design of the Kansas City Chiefs that connects Operation Linebacker I and II to Derrick Thomas and our Salute to Service game for 2022.

Derrick Dad