Military Appreciation Tailgate: Serving those who have served

Penn State partners with Walmart for sixth annual tailgate to recognize 10,000 service members, veterans and family members

Attendees in line at the 2014 Military Appreciation Tailgate at the Pegula Ice Arena. In 2018, more than 500 volunteers will arrive at the Bryce Jordan Center beginning at 6 a.m. and will devote their days to greeting attendees at the door, assisting Wounded Warriors, serving food and more. Credit: Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

Penn State has a longstanding and proud tradition of serving the men and women of our military through education benefits, resources, support and more. This year's Military Appreciation Week at the University begins with a Penn State football game at the University Park campus on Oct. 27, with other planned events leading up to a Veterans Day ceremony on Old Main’s steps on Nov. 12. This year's theme recognizes 100 years of women officially serving in the U.S. armed forces with special events and activities. For additional information, visit

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Before the sun rises on game day — hours before the Penn State Nittany Lions ever take the field against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium on Oct. 27 — Michael del Rosario, a U.S. Army veteran and Penn State alumnus, will arrive across the street at the Bryce Jordan Center with his team to begin their morning shift volunteering at Penn State’s sixth annual Military Appreciation Tailgate.

Del Rosario, along with nearly 500 volunteers, will make sure the grills are hot and the coffee is brewing before up to 10,000 veterans, service members and their families begin funneling in for the noon festivities.

Together, the annual tailgate and football game — which kick off Penn State’s Military Appreciation Week recognizing the service and sacrifice of past and current service members and their families — are the largest military appreciation celebrations in the Big Ten.

Along with free food, entertainment and a resource fair at the tailgate, Penn State supporters this year funded more than 6,300 football tickets through the Seats for Servicemembers program, enabling active and retired military members to attend the Oct. 27 game at no cost.

“This is one way at Penn State that we put ‘thank you for your service’ into action by doing everything we can to serve those who have served,” said Eugene McFeely, senior director for veterans affairs and services at the University. “The tailgate is a huge effort, and the generosity of our volunteers and community partners enable us to deliver a military appreciation event of this scale. It’s a great source of pride.” 

For the past six years, Penn State has partnered with del Rosario and his employer, Walmart, to host the tailgate. The retailer has become the lead donor of food and supplies, while the University provides facilities, seating and event support for the pregame festivities.  

Del Rosario, a former captain in the U.S Army and general transportation manager for Walmart’s distribution center in Woodland, Pennsylvania, said the tailgate is one of his favorite days of the year.

“I’m a proud Penn State and Army ROTC graduate, veteran, and Walmart associate, and I get to combine the most important and influential parts of my life together into one really touching day," del Rosario said. "You don’t often get that kind of feeling where everybody is there for the right reasons to show up for military families. Walmart and Penn State are trying to do some good things for the community, and it’s amazing to see what’s happened when our people joined forces.”