Before the game on Saturday, the locker rooms were prepared for the Army and Navy veterans teams, composed of former football players from both academies along with a number of active and former members of the armed forces.

Credit: Holden McGinnis

Though the Fourth of July is still looming in the near distant future, it doesn’t mean it’s too early to begin celebrating the United States and its veterans.

This weekend, Penn’s Class of 1923 Arena will host a unique celebration of United States armed forces veterans at Saturday’s Army Veterans vs. Navy Veterans arena football game. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.

The event, which is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. , is the second annual game played in the hopes of raising awareness for veterans and helping veterans find employment. It will also serve as a way of kicking off Philadelphia’s Fourth of July-centered Year of the Veteran celebration.

“I came up with the idea three years ago and we got the game launched last year and this year it’s now a stand-alone [event],” Joe Krause, the president of Jakib Media Partners and one of the chief organizers of the event, said.

“We wanted to do something to honor the military and then Martin Judge put the fuel into bringing the game into a reality because he has a passion for helping veterans find employment.”

The game is being put on by the Judge Group and AFL Global, both of which are owned by Martin Judge. The latter is involved in expanding arena football across the world and hopes to use opportunities like this to feature the sport and help the sport stay active within the American market.

Though the centerpiece of the event is the game itself, there are certainly many other festivities involved in the weeklong celebration of veterans. The events range from a pig roast celebration and football gala to being introduced at the Phillies game.

Last year, the game took place at the conclusion of a Philadelphia Soul game at the Wells Fargo center as part of Military Appreciation Night.

Last year’s game featured a number of former players from both military academies, including Navy star quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who broke the NCAA record for rushing touchdowns in a season by a quarterback during his time at the academy.

Ultimately, the Navy Veterans won the inaugural game 40-38 due to a late game-winning drive, setting the stage for a tightly contested rematch.

“It was an unbelievable game. The very last play of the game the Army receiver was stopped at the one-yard line as time expired,” Krause said. “We had a good crowd at the game and it was a tremendous game, a tremendous effort and a great success.”

This year hopes to bring some of the same excitement as many of last year’s players return, along with other competitors. The players are made up of former players from both academies, as well as active and former members of the armed forces. Additionally, eligibility was granted to those whose mother or father served in the armed forces so that they could play on behalf of their mother or father.

Though this will just be the second year of the game’s existence, Krause and others involved with running the game have high hopes for the expansion of the concept.

“We have a five year plan for the game. We’re going to continue to stay in Philadelphia, but ultimately we would like to potentially expand the game and take the game around the country,” Krause said. “Also to expand the game to include Air Force and other branches of the military. At the end of the fifth year, we’d like to take the game international and play an overseas clash.”

With the passion of Krause and his fellow volunteers, who were busy laying the turf for the field when interviewed, the game and its message can clearly be spread far and wide.

“The game’s not going to go away, we’re going to continue to use the game as an umbrella of awareness for veterans,” Krause said. “And it’s a lot of fun, it’s great stuff.”

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