UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of women in the U.S. Armed Forces when the Nittany Lions take the field against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Oct. 27 for the seventh annual Military Appreciation Game. As the largest military appreciation event of its kind in the Big Ten, the game will feature special presentations to active and veteran service members, halftime performances by the Penn State Blue Band, color guard and more.
The theme for this year’s game marks 100 years of women officially serving in the military beginning in 1918 during World War I.
The game will kick off Penn State’s annual Military Appreciation Week leading up to Veterans Day, observed on Nov. 12. The planned festivities — including a community tailgate for military service members, speaker events and more — provide an opportunity for the Penn State community to join together to honor service members, veterans, military families, and the Families of the Fallen to recognize their service and sacrifice.
Last year, the all-volunteer tailgate party in the Bryce Jordan Center was organized for up to 10,000 active-duty service members, veterans and their families to attend before the game. More than 7,500 football tickets were donated by Penn State supporters through the Seats for Servicemembers program.
“Penn State has a longstanding and proud tradition of serving the men and women of our military, and our military appreciation events give our students, athletes and fans a chance to honor those who have bravely served our country by dedicating a game to them,” said Col. (ret) Eugene McFeely, Penn State’s senior director for veterans affairs and services and chair of Penn State’s Military Appreciation Committee. “The University is committed to continuing to recognize the contributions of these individuals, including the many women who have served honorably in various capacities to defend our nation.”
During World War I more than 30,000 women enlisted as nurses, clerks and telephone operators. However, dating as far back as the American Revolutionary War women volunteered as nurses, spies, cooks, ammunition carriers, water bearers and even disguised themselves as men to fight on the battlefield.
“Opha Mae Johnson was the first female to enlist in the Marines in 1918, but the reality is that women have played a role in every major war in U.S. history,” McFeely said. “Their contributions have continuously evolved over time, and today women now serve in nearly every combat role in the U.S. Armed Forces around the world.”
At Penn State, women past and present have a rich military history — from training as aeronautical engineers during World War II to participating in the University’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) beginning in 1972, when for the first time women were permitted to join the program. Today, approximately 17 percent of the University’s ROTC cadets are women serving alongside male counterparts.