Clemson Football: Memorial Day Special

Nov 21, 2015; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Sean Mac Lain (88) carries the American flag prior to the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 21, 2015; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Sean Mac Lain (88) carries the American flag prior to the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports /

Memorial Day is a special day in America to honor all men and women who died during combat. It was first started in 1866 as Decoration Day and later became known as Memorial Day in the 1880’s. Since 1971, the holiday has been observed on the last day of May and has also become a springboard into the summer.

Clemson University has a military tradition and there are remnants of such, on the campus. There is the Military Heritage Plaza created to honor the alumni that served during times of war, the Memorial Chapel, the Scroll of Honor that honors those that were killed in the line of duty, and the Memorial Park.

Phillip Choi(right) at Memorial Stadium rubbing Howard’s Rock. Photo courtesy of Phillip Choi. /

Of course, Memorial Stadium, the home to more than 80,000 fans on football Saturdays, can’t be left out on Memorial Day.

In 1940, Memorial Stadium was named to honor those killed during military service. It is also home to Military Appreciation Day which started in 1994, and is held during a game in November, in accordance with Military Appreciation Week. This year, Military Appreciation Day will be held during the November 5th game against Syracuse and the stadium will be filled with fans wearing purple t-shirts during the “Purple Out.”

What is the “Purple Out?” Just another unique Clemson tradition.

"The “Purple Out” is a concept that was generated by Clemson students, and is meant to represent the great significance the color purple has to the United States Military and Clemson University. It is symbolic of the courage and sacrifice possessed by those recipients of the Purple Heart award. Holding a “Purple Out” for Clemson’s Military Appreciation Day football game will allow the Clemson community to show its support of the University’s military tradition and the United States Armed Forces."

Since its first academic enrollment class of 1893, Clemson has had a strong Army ROTC presence and today it is as strong as ever.

On this special holiday, we will introduce you to Lieutenant Phillip Choi(Clemson ’12) and Sergeant Dezmond Palmer(Clemson ’08). Choi and Palmer are currently deployed and are involved in the Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Operation Freedom’s Sentinel is Choi’s first deployment, but Palmer was also in Iraq in 2006.

Army ROTC and Clemson graduate Phillip Choi. Photo courtesy of Phillip Choi. /

They both took time to share a special Clemson football moment and to send a message to their family.

Phillip Choi: I grew up in Alpharetta, Georgia amongst a lot of Georgia and Auburn fans. My community is literally Bulldog nation. Thus, I grew up watching Georgia football as I was growing up (David Pollack, David Greene, Fred Gibson era). During my senior year of high school, most of my friends were getting accepted into UGA and other SEC schools (Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, etc…) Needless to say, I was the only one from my graduating class to attend Clemson. I immediately fell in love with the Clemson community – Lake Hartwell, the Appalachian mountains, the small-town college feel, rushing a fraternity, Army ROTC, etc… I say all that to fast forward to the 2013 season opener.

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Dezmond Palmer with a Tiger Rag that is signed by Clemson coach, Dabo Swinney. Photo courtesy of Dezmond Palmer. /

The 2013 Clemson football game vs. UGA will go down as one of my favorite games. My high school buddies and I made the 2 hour trek from Alpharetta up to Clemson, tailgated with the rest of my buddies on Lot 2, made new friends around our tailgate, met a lot of my high school buddies’ UGA fraternity brothers and/or friends who also made the trip, and reunited with all my old classmates and friends.

All my UGA friends loved the atmosphere and the scene – the pageantry, history, passion, and lore of Clemson. They appreciated the passion of the Clemson fan base and the community. The game itself was incredible – I loved the call by Chad Morris to call a wheel route for Zac Brooks and Tajh Boyd’s perfect pass into the end zone. I still remember Brent Venables calling a zone blitz and dropping Corey Crawford into coverage, leading to an interception that set them up with great field position.

I’ll always remember Sammy Watkins lowering his shoulder to free himself into the open field on a quick slant that was slightly thrown behind him.

While the game memories still resonate, the Clemson fan base and the Clemson people’s welcome to my friends are what I am most proud of. My friends, life-long UGA fans, grew an appreciation for Clemson folks’ and the passion we display for our team, our school, and the respect we have for the game. They came and left as UGA fans, but they left with a new found respect for Clemson University.

Dezmond Palmer: There are two moments in the most recent past that really stand out. The first would be Clemson versus Louisville during Deshaun Watson’s freshman year. My fiancée is a South Carolina State alumnus and very proud SC State Bulldog fan; however, I convinced her to go to a Clemson game with me, just to see what it was about and why I love my Tigers so much.

It was a beautiful day in Death Valley and we were playing one of the top ranked defenses in the country. Deshaun Watson was a freshman, and he was actually still the back-up QB. The game was dynamic from start to finish and went back and forth a few different times. This is also the game that Deshaun left around the 2nd quarter, because he broke his hand.

I remember looking over at my fiancée around the 3rd quarter and to see her getting involved in the Clemson chants and the great things we do in Clemson, to get the crowd involved meant the world to me. There is so much love in Death Valley and the Clemson family.

The second moment that really stands out has come within the past year. I have been gone all year and missed all of the football season, training for this deployment. This year we went undefeated in the regular season, won the ACC Championship, produced a Heisman finalist, and made it to the National Championship.

As I traveled and trained, to see my Alma Mater do such great things and embody the philosophy of “Lose with class and Win with class.” The world got to see exactly what Clemson is all about.  I deployed with a couple of the most loyalist and passionate Alabama fans you would ever meet. As we fought on from about week 8 until the National Championship game, we went back and forth trash talking. But after that game was complete and Clemson didn’t walk away with the National Championship-all the trash talking ended between us.

Dezmond Palmer with his fiancée Ambyr Sailor(right) and former Clemson University employee, Maryann Rampley. Photo courtesy of Dezmond Palmer. /

We played in one of the best title games in history and against a very worthy opponent. There was a respect level for each other’s program that was not there before. Now that respect is on the field and on the battlefield.

To my beautiful fiancée, I can’t praise you enough for being my biggest support and holding everything together back home and sending me the care packages that help me to get through. I Love You to pieces!
My family and friends, those that have been in my corner, I can’t thank you enough for the love and support you give. Hope to be home soon!

must read: Clemson Baseball: Monte Lee is Batting 1.000

Don’t forget to take time out of your day off with family and friends to thank everyone who fought for our freedom. Some of them are no longer with us today and some are like Dezmond and Phillip, who are currently making it easier for us to feel safe and secure at home.

Clemson University will always recognize the military past and present and you can find all Clemson alums that lost their lives in battle at this link.