Each season, there is a certain game that Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney circles on his team’s schedule as one he looks forward to for a special reason – not because of the opponent, but because of what the particular day represents.
That annual date on Clemson’s football calendar is Military Appreciation Day, which has been a tradition for nearly three decades at a university that’s deeply rooted in the subject.
This year’s Military Appreciation Day was held in conjunction with the Tigers’ 44-7 win over UConn on Saturday at Death Valley, where Clemson paid tribute to the active-duty and retired military with several presentations throughout the day and wore all-purple uniforms in tribute.
“Fun day to be a part of with Military Appreciation,” Swinney said after the game. “Special. Hopefully everyone enjoyed all that went into it. There’s a lot of people that worked really hard to make this a great day.”
During pregame, South Carolina families of Fallen Soldiers were introduced on the field and joined Tiger Band for the patriotic portion of their pregame show. The Special Forces Association parachuted an American Flag and the Clemson Flag, and all veterans and active-duty military members were recognized from their seats at halftime. A fallen soldier tribute took place with the soldier cross and a 21-gun salute in the east end zone, ending with the playing of “Taps.”
The in-game military recognitions included Clemson’s Hero of the Game — William Lipscomb Kinard, a 98-year-old World War II hero.
Kinard was honored during a timeout, and Swinney stepped away from his team to shake hands with Kinard and take a photo with him.
“Meeting that guy that was 98 – I mean, unbelievable. Just incredible,” Swinney said. “So many great and wonderful people in our military. Men and women that make a lot of sacrifices, and just to be a part of this every year is something that I really look forward to. I really do.”
Making the game even more special for Swinney was the attendance of his former high school basketball coach, a Vietnam veteran.
“He’s definitely one of the reasons that I think I was able to have some toughness and have some belief as I moved on from high school for sure,” Swinney said.
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