Fans salute soldiers, hope for win

bmilazzo@centredaily.comNovember 16, 2013 

— — The Ford family hasn't missed a Penn State home football game this season.

Usually out of the loop with the theme of each game, Geri Ford said this time, her family is ready to honor veterans and those currently serving in the military during Military Appreciation Day, and hoping the team can pull off a win against Purdue at noon.

"I think it's important that a game or two can be dedicated to honor those who fight for us," she said. "It's important to show our support."

An American flag was hung from the bed of their pickup truck on Saturday. Before every game, the Fords sing the Penn State fight song with other people in their tailgate pool and bow for a quick prayer.

"Today, maybe we'll sing the National Anthem and say the pledge (of Allegiance) instead," Ford said.

Her son Kevin Ford, a Penn State graduate, traded in his Penn State football jersey for a t-shirt that said "Support our troops."

His grandfather Gerard DuPont fought in the Korean War in the U.S. Navy. His grandmother Tessa Robison-DuPont was in the WAVES, otherwise known as Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.

"They're my only connection to the military, but so many people think that even if you don't know anyone serving or who served before, that it doesn't impact you," Kevin Ford said. "It does anyway, because we live in a country that is always sending our guys out to fight, and that's a part of America and where we live."

Other fans are just hoping for a win.

"Considering they seem to win every other game, it looks like the team is on track for a victory today," said Penn State student and fan Colton Hargrove. "The way they're playing, it's hard to say if it will actually happen, but just based on the pattern of the season, they should win."

The university came out with a statement that said about 2,500 U.S. military service members are expected to attend the Purdue game at noon.

A pre-game tailgate will be held for service members and their families with Seats For Soldiers tickets, and people who have donated tickets to service members. The ROTC elite, active duty, Wounded Warriors and veterans will be honored for their service during halftime.

Adam Hartswick, of Pine Grove Mills, will be flipping the coin at the game before hand, but his nerves are catching up with him the closer it gets to game time, Hartswick said.

Hartswick, a former Army combat medic, lost his legs in May when he stepped on an improvised explosive device while trying to tend to another wounded soldiers from an ambushed U.S. platoon.

Student Pink Zone and Avon have also teamed up Saturday morning for "Tailgate for a Cure." The event is going on until 11:30 a.m. at Gate A of Beaver Stadium to help raise money and awareness for breast cancer.

Military Appreciation Day will continue next home football game on Nov. 23 against Nebraska.

Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @M11azzo.

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