UNIVERSITY PARK — In its third year, Penn State’s Military Appreciation efforts have grown from activities at a single football game in 2012 involving 100 participants to this year’s yearlong military appreciation activities involving more than 3,000 participants.
The Board of Trustees Committee on Outreach, Development and Community Relations learned about those efforts, led by faculty, staff, a retired administrator and a current member of the Board of Trustees and involving volunteers from throughout the University in conjunction with members of the community.
“Our vision is that Penn State will be widely recognized and emulated as the example of what higher education can do to support and address the needs of our nation’s armed forces, veterans and their families,” said Todd Bacastow, professor of practice for geospatial intelligence, and chief of staff for the University’s Military Appreciation Executive Committee.
Bacastow briefed the trustees on the history of the event and the creation of the formal committee, which is chaired by Mike DiRaimo, special assistant to the president for Governmental Affairs. Bacastow said that last year’s football event served 1,500 participants through a game-day tailgate and donated game tickets for members of the military. However, it was realized in a meeting in January with then-President Rodney Erickson that “The 2012 and 2013 events demonstrated a tremendous desire and potential but moving forword requires a vision and designated leadership.”
In March, Erickson issued a planning directive in which he stated, “It is a very high priority of mine that Penn State continues to support the needs of our armed forces, veterans and their families, and acknowledges their sacrifices for and dedication to our nation’s security. Penn State has already been widely recognized for our efforts to date, but we can do more.”
With that directive, he charged the committee to achieve five long-term goals:
— To honor military service members and veterans, their families and loved ones, living and deceased, and express deep appreciation for their selfless service and sacrifice.
— To honor and empower Wounded Warriors and their loved ones.
— To support injured service members and the families of deceased service members in meeting their needs.
— To sustain such efforts as an expression of Penn State’s ongoing commitment and contribution to our national security.
— To increase financial scholarships, academic opportunities, and career services to Penn State veterans and their families.
Events planned for this year include speakers, performances, a library exhibit, dinners, a Veterans Day (Nov. 11) celebration and sporting events designated as Military Appreciation nights. The centerpiece event, the football game vs. Temple on Nov. 15, will feature free tickets and an all-you-can-eat pregame tailgate for active duty service members, Gold Star family members, Wounded Warriors and veterans.
“These free tickets are made available through donations from individuals and businesses. This year, $122,500 was donated to cover the cost of the tickets,” Bacastow said.
In addition, he said an estimated $100,000 was contributed as money, in-kind support and services for the tailgate. This year’s effort also has included:
— 4,200 volunteer miles driven
— 3,000 tailgate guests (planned)
— 200 volunteers
— 40 halftime event participants
— 30 ad hoc planning committee members
— 12+ activities outside football game day
— 8 months of preparation
— 2 tractor trailers to support the tailgate
For more information about military appreciation events, as well as ongoing services available to the University community through Penn State organizations such as ROTC, Graduate School, World Campus, Office of Veterans Programs, Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness and the Office of Human Resources, visit http://military.psu.edu/ online.