Utah Football Honoring Military-Connected Community In Salute America Game
Nov 3, 2023, 9:00 AM
SALT LAKE CITY – Utah football will hold their annual Salute America game this Saturday in an effort to thank and shine light on the many people who serve in the military or are veterans in the Utah community.
Director for the Veterans Support Center, Faamai Taupau loves the event and how it brings athletes, fans, and the military-connected community all together for a day of fun and recognition.
“This Salute America game is a significant event for us that not only celebrates our military-connected students’ academic achievements, but it also recognizes and honors the contributions of the military community,” Taupau said. “I think we’ve been fortunate because our coordination with athletics specifically- their marketing team and involvement of our state military organizations in organizing things like flyovers, military band performances and the flag run at halftime which for me is truly commendable. These efforts go a long way to helping foster a sense of belonging for our military-connected students and their families within the university community.
— Utah Athletics (@utahathletics) November 1, 2023
More On The University of Utah’s Military-Connected Community
The University of Utah currently has around 1,300-1,400 military-connected students on campus that will be celebrated in Saturday’s event.
“Military-connected” includes students who either have served, are actively serving, are in the National Guard or Reserves, as well as any spouses/dependents of those who have/are serving and Utah’s ROTC. Basically, military-connected applies to any student who has access to military benefits like the G.I. Bill for any reason.
Of the 1,300-1,400 military-connected students, about 65-70% are veterans or active duty. The other 30% are spouses or dependents.
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Utah Football + Salute America Events
“We have a couple of recognitions we’re doing,” Taupau said. “We have some of our service members- one will be doing the delivery of the game ball. We have one that will do the coin toss with all of the team captains. We will also have our military legacy challenge coins that we will be selling at the game and all of the proceeds we make off of that will be going to supporting our students whether it’s scholarships or more funding for some of our activities. We’re pretty excited about that piece.”
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One of the bigger recognitions taking place Saturday stems from a new award that has recently been given to a University of Utah veteran alumni for his help in connecting others in the military-connected community to employment or academic goals through his own business.
“Other recognitions throughout the stadium- the jumbotron will have a bunch of our veterans and military-connected students that will thank all of our military members for their service,” Taupau continued. “We’re recognizing a Utah alumni veteran, Michael Dunbar, who has been awarded the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award which goes to employers who have helped veterans, National Guard and reservists accomplish either academic goals or employment goals. It’s a big deal award and we wanted to add it to our program for the Salute America game.”
The day’s events will flow into the halftime show as the military band joins the Marching Utes for a performance.
“We will have the military band who will be there playing with the University of Utah marching band,” Taupau said. “We will recognize our student-veteran of the year during halftime and then we will do the flag run across the field during halftime as well which involves most of our military-connected students and their families.”
Helping Our Military-Connected Community At The U
Like student-athletes, the transition to “normal” life can be a tough one for those who have served or have some other connection to military life.
The Veteran Affairs office is located on the University of Utah campus and has a lot of resources to help the military-connected community get started into civilian life. Taupau’s department with the Veterans Support Center works in hand with the V.A. to provide as much assistance as possible to get people back on their feet and working toward new goals.
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“The great thing about our university is that the V.A. is located right across the street,” Taupau said. “In our center we also have other departments and organizations that work in our office. For example, we have our Veterans Services team who are here from the Office of the Registrar. They are here to help with any G.I. Bill. We work together with the V.A. so folks that are struggling- we are a great resource to help them get the help that they need. If there is interest in getting back to school, we have a bunch of programs built in to help the military-connected get back to school.”
Taupau loves events like what will take place on Saturday because it helps raise awareness for the military-connected community while also reminding them they are not alone.
“What fills my heart is working with veterans who are trying to get back on their feet,” Taupau said. “I love when we do things like this and the partners we have to support our military-connected students to get them back in school and setting them up to succeed at the university.”
For more information on donating, using your G.I. Bill, getting counseling, etc., please visit the Veterans Support Center (utah.edu).
Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on X, Instagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports
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