Why We Wear Purple
Clemson, formally founded as Clemson Agricultural College in November 1889, was originally a military school, reflecting a belief at the time that a military atmosphere produced the highest academic excellence. Beginning with the first graduating class of 1896, more than 10,000 Clemson men and women have served in the armed forces. Throughout the decades, Clemson’s military heritage has remained, even as the university transitioned to a coeducational civilian institution in 1955.
Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech will be Clemson’s 30th Military Appreciation Day. The history of the special day dates to 1994 when Clemson had a special flyover for the Clemson vs. Georgia Tech game on Nov. 12, just one day after Veterans Day. The flyover of four F-16s from Shaw Air Force Base during pregame was the highlight of the celebration that day.
Clemson has celebrated its military history every year during games held in November or when Clemson plays host to a school with its own military heritage. The Tigers don purple uniforms for the Military Appreciation Day game in reverence to the Purple Heart, the oldest United States military decoration.
General George Washington awarded the first purple-colored, heart-shaped badges to soldiers who fought in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Clemson has a 25-4 record in the previous 29 Military Appreciation Day games. The Tigers have won 15 such games in a row, with the last loss coming against Virginia Tech in 2007.
Military Appreciation Week on Campus
The Clemson University campus community is coming together Nov. 6-11 in celebration of the school’s military heritage and tradition as part of Military Appreciation Week 2023. Events are planned throughout the week, culminating with the Tiger football team’s home game against Georgia Tech. More information is available here.
Tiger Fans get an Up Close Look at Military Vehicles and historic reminders of Clemson's Military Heritage on Bowman Field
Static displays of military vehicles will be on Bowman Field the morning of the game. Tiger fans will have the opportunity to view these vehicles up close and take a look inside! This year fans will get an up close look at a Chinook Helicopter and two other ground vehicles. Be sure to check the skies on Saturday morning as the Chinook is set to land between 8-9am!
Military Heritage Plaza
Bowman Field was once considered “sacred soil” and served as the parade grounds for Clemson University cadets where they would train and drill. To this day, cadets from the Air Force and Army ROTC use Bowman Field to learn and practice drill. On display around Bowman are various memorials that serve as a reminder of Clemson University’s roots as a military college.
Military Heritage Plaza, the neatly terraced public square between Tillman Hall and Bowman Field, holds a special place in Clemson’s rich military heritage. It was originally dedicated in 1996. Cadets who complete Clemson’s Reserve Officer’s Training Corps programs and commission into the U.S. Army or Air Force receive their first salutes as officers there, known as the “Silver Dollar Salute.”
The Silver Dollar Salute is the first salute given to a newly commissioned officer by an enlisted service member. It shows the respect and admiration that officers receive from their noncommissioned and enlisted service members. An enlisted service member will salute the officer and the officer will give them a silver dollar to remember the occasion and thank them for serving the country.
Silver Dollar Salutes traditionally take place immediately after the joint commissioning ceremony on the lower level of the plaza. The new officers walk down the four terraces of the plaza, which represent each academic year, past the cement footprints of past cadets arranged in a military formation on the second level, through the two brick towers that hold each half of the mold of the statue of a cadet on the third level and receive their salute on the fourth level next to the statue of the senior cadet walking out onto Bowman Field.
“The 94 medals displayed on these walls replicate the thousands of medals that Clemson men and women have been awarded through the years for valor, merit and honorable service while members of the armed forces of the United States.” -Retired Army Lt. Col. Claude Cooper
Clemson Cannons: “Tom and Jerry”
In front of Godfrey Hall on Bowman Field sits two bronze cannons nicknamed “Tom and Jerry.” These two cannons have been on Bowman field since October of 1951. In 2014 the cannons were removed from their cement bases and given aluminum carriages. Since the cannons were placed upon Bowman Field Clemson’s Company C-4 Pershing Rifles are considered the “guardians of the cannons.” As an initiation ritual, the initiates are tasked with guarding the cannons 24/7 for an entire week. This tradition is known as cannon week and is still done to this day. Learn more about the Clemson Cannons here.
This Years Flyover
This year Tiger fans will have a unique opportunity to witness a flyover during the national anthem by a Lockheed C-130H3. The flyover comes courtesy of the 700th Airlift Squadron located at Dobbins Airforce Base in Marietta GA.
In stadium look at the flyover from three Chinook helicopters in the Military Appreciation game in 2022
Tiger Band Plays the Songs of the US Military
To honor all veterans and active-duty military in attendance, Tiger Band will play the Armed Forces Medley at halftime. All veterans and active duty military are invited to stand from their seats when their branch’s song was played. Check out the video below from last years Military Appreciation game!
At halftime Tiger Band preformed the Armed Forces Medley
A Tribute to Fallen Veterans
A tribute to fallen soldiers will take place at halftime with the assembly of The Soldier’s Cross and a 21-gun salute in the east end zone, ending with the playing of “Taps.” The configuration of the rifle pointed downward with a helmet resting on the stock was a common sight during World War I and World War II. This tradition is carried on to this day as a memorial to all who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Halftime Ceremonies 2022 Military Appreciation game
Clemson honors fallen soldiers
Clemson Unveils a POW-MIA Chair within Memorial Stadium
Last year on November 11, 2022, Clemson held an instillation ceremony for the POW-MIA chair that was added to Memorial Stadium. This permanently empty chair is in place in the stadium to honor those who were POW and MIA. This tradition can be found in almost every military installation as a constant remainder.
The chair was installed thanks to a gift from Jennifer and Frank Blake as a constant reminder of those who are Prisoners of War and Missing in Action – the POW / MIA Chair of Honor.
Clemson is aware of 23 Clemson alumni – from World War 2 through the present – who were Prisoners of War during the Vietnam War. Three were on hand at the ceremony and will be honored Saturday:
- Air Force Colonel William “Bill” R. Austin II – Class of 1959 – who spent 1,986 days in captivity.
- Navy Commander Robert S. Fant, Jr. – Class of 1960 – who spent 1,694 days in captivity.
- Air Force Major Samuel Richard “Dick” Vaughan – Class of 1967 – who spent 467 days in captivity.
According to the Department of Defense – more than 80,000 American service personnel are missing from previous conflicts. The POW / MIA Chair of Honor is a powerful symbol of our on-going commitment to these patriots. We will never forget them – and we will stand with their families in the hope that – one day – their loved ones will return home.
POW-MIA Chair Instillation
Clemson unveils the new POW-MIA chair within Memorial Stadium
A full video of the 2022 Military Appreciation day celebrations during halftime