Shreyaa Venkat, Army Sgt. Christopher D. Braman and Police Sgt. Almedin Ajanovic were recognized during a special on-field ceremony during Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions game
Washington, D.C. – America250, the nationwide commemoration of America’s 250th anniversary in 2026 led by the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission, and the NFL officially announced today the inaugural class of the 2021 America250 Awards during a special halftime ceremony of the Bears vs. Lions game on Thanksgiving Day. The awardees were recognized in three categories:
- Community Champion: Shreyaa Venkat of Ashburn, Virginia
- 9/11 Hero: Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher D. Braman of Orange County, California
- First Responder: Lilburn Police Sgt. Almedin Ajanovic of Dacula, Georgia
The multiyear awards program was created to recognize Americans who exemplify the intangible qualities of the American spirit, and spotlight those who exhibit heroism, unity, justice, tranquility, valor, and equality, and advance and uphold the freedoms first forged in the founding promise of America.
“As we gather with our families and loved ones on Thanksgiving, it is an honor to stand alongside the NFL and express our gratitude to these three extraordinary heroes who inspire the American spirit in all of us,” said Joseph Daniels, president and CEO, America250. “Congratulations to Shreyaa Venkat, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Braman and Police Sgt. Almedin Ajanovic who make me very proud to be an American.”
“Our country was built on countless examples of extraordinary citizenry, much like the America250 Award honorees recognized today,” said Daniel M. DiLella, chairman, U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission. “Commemorating the 250th anniversary of America’s independence gives us the opportunity to share the stories of our everyday America heroes, deepen our connection to one another, and work towards a bright future together.”
“I’ve spent my life studying heroes and I’m excited to acknowledge three of them today. It is also a tremendous honor for me to be a part of this special moment as a lifelong NFL fan and history educator for more than 20 years,” U.S. Semiquincentennial Commissioner Val Crofts said. “I’m honored to be standing with those who have made history, continue to make history today, and will make history in the future. September 11 was an event that impacted us all. It also inspired first responders and members of our communities to help one another when we needed it most. I’m grateful and humble to recognize these extraordinary Americans today.”
A distinguished panel of judges, including Daniels and Crofts, selected the three winners from submissions from Americans nationwide. Each of the winners received two roundtrip tickets, accommodations to the Thanksgiving Day NFL game, and were presented with a state-of-the-art trophy designed and created by Bennett Awards, a women-owned, family-owned artisan business based in Placerville, California.
Background on honorees:
Shreyaa Venkat was named Community Champion, which recognizes an individual who embodies the everyday courage of our country’s extraordinary citizens who take heroic action to make local communities better. As a 19-year-old Georgetown University student, she is the co-founder and CEO of NEST4US, a nonprofit tackling global hunger, quality education, and other societal issues. Shreyaa’s volunteer family has grown to 3,000+ people of all ages and backgrounds who have contributed over $1.3 million in value of volunteer hours impacting tens of thousands of people in 22 countries across six continents.
“It is truly an honor and privilege to be selected as the 2021 America250 Award Community Champion. As a young female entrepreneur of color, I’m proud to foster a community built upon mutual respect, inclusivity, empathy and kindness that empowers others to take action and build a better, brighter future for our nation and beyond,” Venkat said.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher D. Braman was recognized as the 9/11 Hero, which is given to someone who responded with heroism to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Sgt. Braman is a retired U.S. Army Ranger who was working at the General Officer Mess at the Pentagon on 9/11. After the plane struck the Pentagon, Braman was thrown by the blast but quickly rushed towards the crash site and began evacuating people. Over the next 60 hours, he carried numerous bodies from the wreckage and saved multiple lives. Braman was later awarded the Purple Heart and Soldier’s Medal for his heroic actions.
“I am truly honored and humbled to receive this award today from America250 who inspires the principle of the American Spirit. America and football are two of my favorite subjects, and I am blessed to be here with everyone on Thanksgiving Day. Thank you America250 for holding the torch to inspire us all to be better Americans,” Sgt. Braman said.
Lilburn Police Sgt. Almedin Ajanovic received the First Responder award, dedicated to a present-day hero who answers the call in response to emergencies and tragic events. As a City of Lilburn police officer, Sgt. Ajanovic was off duty and headed home one night when he heard a call about a train derailment and fire. When he arrived at the scene, he ignored the potential of danger from fire, hazardous chemicals, and electricity from the explosion and climbed on the wrecked rail cars to lead two men to safety.
“It’s truly an honor to receive this recognition and spend Thanksgiving Day honoring and remembering those that are no longer with us and those that serve to make this world a better place to live and raise our families. Together we are a team and while working together as a team, we are unstoppable,” Sgt. Ajanovic said.
For more information on the awards program, please visit https://america250awards.org.
Images of the honorees can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/7pqh6da5npk8i7c/AACEYZ_t_8RP1ElN-0CH_aYpa?dl=0
America250 is a multiyear effort to commemorate the semiquincentennial, or 250th anniversary, of the United States. The purpose of the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission, created by Congress, and the corresponding America250 Foundation, is to catalyze a more perfect union by designing and leading the most comprehensive and inclusive celebration in our country’s history. America250 represents a coalition of public and private partners all working to create initiatives and programs that honor our first 250 years and inspire Americans to imagine our next 250. The commemoration period began in 2020, culminates on July 4, 2026, and officially concludes in 2027. For more information, visit www.america250.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter , Instagram and TikTok.