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VOL . 3, NO. 1

C H A R L I E A N D H A Z E L DA N I E L S V E T E R A N S A N D M I L I TA R Y FA M I LY C E N T E R

“Only two things protect the United States of America: the grace of almighty God and the United States military.” –Charlie Daniels


JOURNEY CONTENTS Middle Tennessee State University Summer 2020 / Vol. 3, No. 1

Director, Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center Hilary Miller

Senior Advisor for Veterans and Leadership Initiatives LTG(R) Keith M. Huber

Senior Editor Drew Ruble

Sr. Director, Creative Marketing Solutions Kara Hooper

Designer Micah Loyed

University Photographers James Cessna, Andy Heidt, J. Intintoli, Cat Curtis Murphy

Contributing Editor Carol Stuart

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Leading by Example MTSU’s proud history of military friendliness has only been elevated since the arrival of LTG(R) Keith M. Huber to campus

Contributing Writers Skip Anderson, Allison Gorman, Randy Weiler

University President Sidney A. McPhee

University Provost Mark Byrnes

Vice President of Communications Andrew Oppmann Correspondence should be sent to JOURNEY Magazine, Drew Ruble, 1301 E. Main St., MTSU Box 49, Murfreesboro, TN 37132

0320-8844 / Middle Tennessee State University does not discriminate against students, employees, or applicants for admission or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, age, status as a protected veteran, genetic information, or any other legally protected class with respect to all employment, programs, and activities sponsored by MTSU. The Assistant to the President for Institutional Equity and Compliance has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies and can be reached at Cope Administration Building 116, 1301 East Main Street, Murfreesboro, TN 37132; Marian.Wilson@mtsu.edu; or 615-898-2185 The MTSU policy on non-discrimination can be found at mtsu.edu/iec.

2500 copies printed at Pollock Printing, Nashville, Tenn. Designed by MTSU Creative Marketing Solutions

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Front and Center

MTSU has a long tradition of aiding veterans in their transition from military to civilian life

Finding a Home

Combat veteran and inactive Marine Sgt. Corbitt Huseth helps wounded vets while pursuing his Ph.D.

Making the Journey Possible Supporters line up to give MTSU’s military veterans and families their due

Sign of the Times

A Daniels Center tradition commemorating student veterans at graduation expands in size and scope

In Both Word and Deed

With every passing year, MTSU’s annual salute to service weekend keeps getting bigger and better

Partners for Patriots

Corporate partnerships cultivated by the Daniels Center benefit student veterans in various ways


An Ongoing Duty It’s hard to believe that it has almost been five years since we opened the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center at MTSU. It feels like no time has passed at all. Yet, thousands of military-connected students have walked through our doors, sat in our offices, and graciously let us participate in their college experience. Even crazier: We’ve seen 1,428 militaryconnected students graduate during this short time! So many great things have happened since we started on this journey. Perhaps the area for which I am most proud, though, is our emphasis on academic success. Initially, our primary concern was onboarding veterans and/or family members. We wanted to ensure their transition to civilian life was seamless. While this is still something we attend to, it is not our main focus these days, frankly because we are awfully good at it! We have procedures, policies, and people—all pulled together in one place—to actively address residency, prior learning assessment, and navigating the GI Bill®. Veterans no longer have to struggle to begin their education. We meet them at the starting gate. Nowadays, our central concern is academic success. We are laser-focused on ensuring that our students get strong advising and degree-planning and that they make good grades.

To this end, students using Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense funding are required to participate in academic advising every semester. Further, much of the Daniels Center’s programming is academically oriented. For instance, each semester we hold a Final Exam Math Prep as well as Waffles and Writing Workshops, where we bring in faculty from the Mathematical Sciences and English departments to help our veterans. We also host monthly Warrior Luncheons, where our student veterans have an opportunity to informally interact and have a meal with the professors and administrative leadership in their major. We also are constantly connecting students with tutoring resources. In addition, I personally go through all 6,000 midterm grades and contact students who seem to be having difficulties. These are just a few of the initiatives we are pursuing to support our student veterans’ educational goals and to complement our continued onboarding and career assistance efforts. The Daniels Center is definitely not a one-pony show! We have a comprehensive mission to aid in all areas of the military-to-civilian transition, assisting not just the veteran but everyone on the military trajectory (from cadets to retirees—and always including family members). It is exciting to watch as the center itself continues to transition, at all times moving toward providing better and more inclusive services—and leading the way for student veterans. Hilary Miller, Ed.D., Daniels Center Director S U MMER 2 0 2 0 3


Inaugural Faculty/Staff Veterans Stole Ceremony in the Miller Education Center atrium. photo by Andy Heidt 4


FRONTand CENTER The Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center epitomizes MTSU’s long history of supporting those who served MTSU has a long tradition of aiding veterans in their transition from military to civilian life. Year after year, MTSU has been recognized by national publications such as Military Times and G.I. Jobs magazine as being one of the top universities in the U.S. for veteran education. In the mid-2000s, with the rising number of veterans returning to campus, MTSU began ramping up its support toward student veterans and family members. Actions such as the creation of the Veterans Memorial, the founding of the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, and the designation of a small space for a veterans’ lounge all pointed to developing a critical mass of support for veteran education. In 2011, MTSU became the first institution of higher education in the state (and one of the first in the country) to partner with the Veteran Affairs’ new VetSuccess on Campus program. The next big step came at the start of 2015, when retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber was hired. Serving as the senior advisor for veterans and leadership initiatives and reporting to the president and provost, the retired general quickly became a key advocate for student veterans. His initial assignment was to research and assess MTSU’s veteran environment and based on those findings take action. At that same time, MTSU administrator Hilary Miller was moved into the newly created, full-time position of center director. On Nov. 5, 2015, MTSU opened the Veterans and Military Family Center on campus. The center is now named the

Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center as a result of the generous donations through the years from The Journey Home Project, co-founded by country music legend Charlie Daniels. In 2017, the center opened its Veterans Transitioning Home office​ to further help veterans by matching them with prospective employers. The center is a 3,200-square-foot, comprehensive, “one-stop” hub for student veterans (mtsu.edu/ military)—one of the nation’s largest such centers— with a five-point mission to: • enroll student-veterans and family members • encourage them while at MTSU • assist with employment • educate the university community • expand the veteran-education knowledge base Everything a student veteran needs to succeed is available in the Keathley University Center location, from scheduling courses and completing government paperwork to getting questions answered about benefits and employment opportunities. The Daniels Center provides service and support for over a thousand student veterans and their family members at MTSU. And Huber is in his fifth year leading MTSU’s ongoing push to help student veterans be successful at college and beyond. The creation of the Daniels Center on campus is just the latest step in MTSU becoming the most military-friendly university in America.

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The Nashville Predators pro hockey club, in concert with Bridgestone Arena, will help raise money for The General’s Fund at MTSU. The fund supports military-connected students who struggle financially to reach their higher education and career goals. To support the fund, text PREDS4MTVets to 41444 on your mobile phone, or visit the MTSU Foundation website at mtsu.edu/give. 6


LEAD BY EXAMPLE MTSU’s proud history of military friendliness has only been elevated since the arrival of LTG(R) Keith M. Huber to campus

So, from his home in Franklin, he contacted academic institutions throughout Tennessee that had ROTC programs and offered to speak at commissioning or awards ceremonies—or anywhere else he could provide education or inspiration.

by Allison Gorman

When he spoke at MTSU, President Sidney A. McPhee was among the inspired.

To understand how difficult the journey transitioning from military to civilian life can be, consider LTG(R) Keith M. Huber, who spent 38 years in the U.S. Army, 14 of them as a general officer. When he retired from the military in 2013, his résumé had no corporate equivalent: His workdays sometimes involved combat, his business trips were tours of duty, his operating budget was $960 million, and his meetings were often with heads of state or the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A civilian for the first time in his adult life, Huber pondered the path before him. To his mind, true retirement was out of the question, but so were many of the careers available to someone with his rarified skill set and political leverage. “I consciously decided not to work for a defense contractor or be a news commentator or criticize other people or allow politicians to use my words and my experience to bludgeon other people,” he said. Service is built into a soldier’s DNA, he added. He wanted to serve.

With waves of newly discharged soldiers entering college on the Post-9/11 GI Bill®, McPhee had been looking for a way to build on the University’s long track record of partnering with the military and educating veterans. MTSU had been recognized by G.I. Jobs magazine as among the most military-focused universities in America, and it had a small but passionate group of faculty, one of whom was Hilary Miller, who worked tirelessly on student veteran issues. The University also had been selected to participate in the Veteran Affairs’ new VetSuccess on Campus program, at the time one of only 12 universities with a full-time VA benefits counselor. A VA mental health counselor was later added to services offered on campus. McPhee offered Huber space and $329,000 to design, build, and equip a veterans’ center on the first floor of Keathley University Center. And he asked him to stay on at MTSU as senior advisor for veterans and leadership initiatives. The retired general replied, “I’d be honored to, as long as I can make a contribution to serving our student veterans.” Having recently reached his five-year anniversary working with MTSU, he’s been a man on a mission ever since. S U MMER 2 0 2 0 7


Finding A Home

Combat veteran and inactive Marine Sgt. Corbitt Huseth helps wounded vets while pursuing his Ph.D. by Skip Anderson

Corbitt Huseth, Afghanistan combat veteran and still a U.S. Marine sergeant (inactive), served as an explosives expert. He says events in his life have happily moved along quickly since returning stateside and enrolling at Middle Tennessee State University. But the truth is that the speed of Huseth’s life was whipcrack fast long before relocating to Murfreesboro. “I was out of the Marine Corps, and my wife Googled veteran-friendly campuses in late 2014 and I enrolled at MTSU in 2015,” Huseth said. “It turns out that MTSU is one of the friendliest campuses for student veterans in the whole country.” Huseth, who served the country as an infantryman during active duty, says MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center not only bolsters the University’s national—and growing—reputation. He says the Daniels Center team, led by LTG(R) Keith M. Huber and Hilary Miller (Ed.D.), also hustles to administer services to student veterans on a speedy basis. After all, these particular students signed on to defend democracy and the interests of the United States around the globe. 8

“What [LTG(R) Huber] has done for me through the Daniels Center has been so helpful,” Huseth said. The Daniels Center “has ensured that my work experience through five years of serving in the military transfers directly into MTSU’s system. That’s so important. Before I came to MTSU, I went to a community college, and they only gave me 8 credits for my military service—MTSU was able to give me 26 credits. It’s nice that my service was recognized like that.” In addition to myriad ways of servicing MTSU’s student veterans, such as keeping them apprised of job openings for which they’re likely to be strong candidates, the Daniels Center also links these students to financial assistance whenever possible. In Huseth’s case, that meant connecting him to a scholarship exclusively for post-9/11 veterans. “There have been a lot of blessings along the way since coming to MTSU,” Huseth said. “The Daniels Center is outstanding at connecting veterans with opportunities. Part of what they do is make sure each individual understands the job opportunities and financial opportunities that are out there; they introduced me to the Sentinels of Freedom Foundation, an organization that helps bridge the gap between the GI Bill® and the expenses students incur. That’s important for all veterans. “If [the Sentinels] accept you, they will pay your mortgage and provide mentors for finances and career placements. I was awarded it. For someone like me, one with a family and a mortgage, that’s what made my education possible.”


photo by Andy Heidt S U MMER 2 0 2 0 9


“I was on patrol within an hour of landing. . . . Forty minutes into the patrol, my sergeant got hit by an IED.”

As quickly as his life unfolded once enrolling at MTSU—earning a bachelor’s, a master’s, and likely a Ph.D. within five years—the facts show that the events in Huseth’s life were zipping along well before his return. Take, for example, the first 100 minutes that followed after he landed in the river valley of Sangin, Afghanistan. “Everything was a blur from the second we got there,” Huseth said. “I was on patrol within an hour of landing. We weren’t more than 100 meters from the patrol base we had set up. We were moving through an alleyway with 1,000-year-old mud huts on both sides of us. Forty minutes into the patrol, my sergeant got hit by an IED [improvised explosive device]—we were under fire at the same time.” Huseth says time jolted sideways in the moments that followed. “He was right in front of me when it happened, but he might as well had been 10 years ahead of me. I remember thinking, ‘Sh#%, this is going to suck,’ ” Huseth said. “It didn’t seem real for a few seconds. When the dust cleared, and I got back on my feet, I realized what happened. I moved forward.” His sergeant had stepped on 15 pounds of explosives buried by Russian troops long before. Only a fraction of the explosives detonated. “Everything was robotic,” Huseth said. “I pulled him out of the crater. His leg wasn’t looking the way it should, but it was intact. It didn’t hit me what had happened until we returned to our base.” His squad leader would eventually lose his foot and a portion of his leg. Huseth escaped serious injury in that encounter—and countless others. But one was a little stranger, if not more dangerous, than most. “I wouldn’t say I was wounded, and it wasn’t Purple Heart-worthy. What I have is a scar and an interesting bar story; I would need the MythBusters to figure out exactly what happened,” Huseth said. “I caught a ricocheted bullet in the arm. It looked like a 7.62 round.” A 7.62 round is a high-caliber bullet usually fired from a military-grade rifle such as an AK-47.

Corbitt Huseth speaking at the Board of Trustees Fall 2019 meeting photo by James Cessna

“The biggest hurdle for him was not his spinal cord injury, it was his . . . combatrelated PTSD. That’s when I learned I wanted to work with veterans.” 10

“It’s not a wound that I would really call a ‘wound.’ The bullet went into the flesh of my arm, but it didn’t bleed because [the bullet] cauterized the wound,” Huseth said. “We’ve estimated that it was fired from 2,000 meters away [about 1.25 miles]. The bullet basically bounced off me, which is how we know it was likely fired from so far away.” Huseth’s nine-month deployment to Afghanistan coincided with the hottest months of the year. “I was right there for the peak, that’s for sure. I landed there as just as the temperatures were on the rise, and it started to cool just as I was leaving in late September,” he said. “I’d say the heat index was typically around 120 degrees during my deployment. It’s funny, after I left, I was shaking because it was so cold— it was only 85 degrees.” Considering the number of U.S. casualties while he was stationed in Afghanistan, the Memphis native was exceptionally lucky to return home intact. Four soldiers from Huseth’s squad of 12 were wounded—his sergeant, a machine gunner, and a minesweeper were each wounded by an IED, and another member of his squad was shot. One is a tripleamputee and another a single. A squad member also killed himself after returning stateside. All told, of the 600 to 700 people from the base who conducted maneuvers during those nine months, “we had a little over 200 casualties,” including 16 combat deaths and a staggering 36 suicides.


Graduating Veterans Stole Ceremony (l–r): MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, Corbitt Huseth, Provost Mark Byrnes, and LTG(R) Keith M. Huber photo by Andy Heidt

After returning home in October 2014, Huseth and his wife, Brieanna, moved to Murfreesboro, where he earned a B.S. in Exercise Science from MTSU’s College of Behavioral and Health Sciences in 2017. Because he was taking graduate-level classes at the same time, Huseth then completed his M.S. in Exercise Science eight months later. He now has finished the coursework required for a Ph.D. in Human Performance at MTSU and is working on a dissertation. If that wasn’t enough to keep life moving at a blazing speed, the couple also had two children—Holli, 4, and Pate, 2½—during that same span.

“The Daniels Center is outstanding at connecting veterans with opportunities.” While Huseth was working on his bachelor’s degree, a friend who was wrapping up his Ph.D. at the time “said I would need to start jumping onto as many undergraduate research projects as I could,” Huseth said. “I started interning at the underwater treadmill lab just for the experience, but I’ve stayed there the entirety of my time at MTSU.” MTSU’s underwater treadmill lab, under the direction of Associate Professor Sandra L. Stevens, studies people with spinal cord injuries as they work to regain mobility. “People who work in that lab just love it,” Huseth said. “Watching a person walk for the first time in 30 years over ground is a pretty big thing, and you get addicted to their

success. That’s how it progressed for me.” The participants include military veterans, which surely is another enticement given that his grandfather and great uncle also both served in the armed forces. “My grandfather was a Marine, and my great-uncle was a full-bird colonel in the Army who served in Korea and Vietnam,” Huseth said. “Both were infantrymen.” One of the study participants, a Vietnam veteran whom Huseth worked with early in his tenure at the underwater treadmill lab, helped him realize his desire to work with veterans. “He had been shot once and hit by a booby trap once and had a spinal injury. Dr. Stevens put me with him three to four times per week,” Huseth said. “At the beginning of my Ph.D. work, he committed suicide. The biggest hurdle for him was not his spinal cord injury, it was his mental health. It was his combat-related PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. That’s when I learned I wanted to work with veterans.” Huseth is currently working full time as a veteran service representative in the Nashville regional office of the Department of Veterans Affairs. “That’s a good place for me to start,” Huseth said. “I will then switch over to something with a research component that would allow me also to work with veterans with PTSD.” Indeed, it appears events in Huseth’s life continue to move along quickly since returning stateside and enrolling at MTSU, and his journey to make a difference as a veteran working with veterans is only just beginning.

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Making the

JOURNEY POSSIBLE

Supporters line up to give MTSU’s military veterans and families their due The Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center is a one-stop shop for MTSU’s 1,000-plus student veterans and family members. It’s also a place for student veterans to study, gather, and get help from fellow veterans, who serve as peer advisors and sponsors. This journey wouldn’t be possible without the help and dedication of The Journey Home Project, Tennessee government, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and others involved that helped create and now sustain the center.

Charlie and Hazel Daniels

Charlie Daniels, a Country Music Hall of Famer from Mt. Juliet, and his wife, Hazel, have had close ties to MTSU for decades. In 1975, the entertainer’s second Volunteer Jam was held at MTSU’s Murphy Center, and in 2009, the University presented him with the Joe M. Rodgers Spirit of America Award, an honor given to a businessperson who has demonstrated the best of the spirit of America through significant contributions in government, education, and/or civic and charitable organizations.

The Journey Home Project

Daniels lent his celebrity status and musical talents to raise money for a veterans’ scholarship fund, and The Journey Home Project is an outgrowth of those concerts. The Journey Home Project now assists other not-forprofits in securing funds to benefit veterans and assist in their transition from uniform to civilian life. Daniels and his longtime manager, David Corlew, co-founded The Journey Home Project, and now along with retired Maj. Gen. Terry “Max” Haston, an MTSU alum, make up the organization’s board of directors. The project raises funding from individual donors and fundraising events, including Daniels’ renowned Volunteer Jam, which over the years has drawn on the talents of some of the biggest names in the music world, including Alabama, Garth Brooks, James Brown, Don Henley, Billy Joel, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Oak Ridge Boys, just to name a few.

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Education represents the foundation on which The Journey Home Project was created—leading to the partnership, donations, and eventual naming of MTSU’s new military center for Charlie and Hazel Daniels. That happened in 2015, when The Journey Home Project committed $50,000 to assist the new Daniels Center with its needs. The contribution came from funds raised at the 40th anniversary Volunteer Jam. But the generosity didn’t end there. In each subsequent year, The Journey Home Project has donated countless more time and financial support.

State Government

Way back in 2015, the state of Tennessee earmarked a $91,000 state grant to support MTSU’s ongoing efforts to help student veterans successfully pursue their higher education degrees. The Veteran Reconnect Grant, focusing on improving the success of student veterans enrolled in Tennessee colleges, helped support programs at the then-new center opening at MTSU. In 2017, the state supplied another grant of nearly $185,500 for the center’s proposal to increase veterans’ student success. Total to date, at press time, the state had provided $492,763 in awards. MTSU has led the way in Tennessee regarding serving student veterans, and state officials continue even to this day to support the center, which fulfills a major state priority—to prepare students to enter the civilian workforce ready to succeed.

Veterans Affairs

A key ingredient to that success has been MTSU’s unusually close relationship and productive relationship with the VA. In 2011, MTSU became only one of 12 universities in the nation selected to launch the VA VetSuccess on Campus program. The VA VetSuccess on Campus program provides career counseling, VA benefit assistance, and financial and transition counseling. In June 2016, a full-time VA mental health counselor at MTSU began providing counseling and assistance with access to medical providers at Tennessee Valley Healthcare System in Murfreesboro. On VA Wednesdays, a visiting VA Benefits employee holds office hours in the Daniels Center. That partnership between MTSU and the local VA facility earned one of just three national Veterans Health Administration Community Partnership Awards in May 2016.


Country music legend Charlie Daniels at MTSU’s Veterans Impact Celebration photo by J. Intintoli

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SIGN OF THE TIMES A Daniels Center tradition commemorating student veterans at graduation expands in size and scope by Randy Weiler

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photo by J. Intintoli S U MMER 2 0 2 0 1 5


MTSU awards graduating veterans a special red stole. photo by J. Intintoli

MTSU began to honor its graduating veterans with a formal stole ceremony starting with the first commemoration in May 2015. The student veterans receive red stoles to wear with their caps and gowns during the University’s commencement ceremonies. “The stole ceremony demonstrates a clear commitment to recognize and appreciate the selfless service and sacrifice of our veterans and their precious families,” said LTG(R) Keith M. Huber, MTSU’s senior advisor for veterans and leadership initiatives. “This stole ceremony will become a tradition symbolizing academic achievement and service.” In recent times, the University has added a stole ceremony for faculty and staff veterans as well.

Reaching a Milestone Doug Williams of Smyrna, Tennessee, achieved yet another personal milestone when he graduated in December 2019 from MTSU with his master’s in Human Resources Leadership. Williams, 45, who earned a bachelor’s degree from MTSU in 2017, joined nearly 25 other classmates in December 2019 for the 15th Graduating Veterans Stole Ceremony at the University’s Miller Education Center. Hosted by the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center, the ceremony featured the presentation of the special red stoles that could be worn during the attending veterans’ commencement ceremonies in Murphy Center.

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They were among a class of 86 student veterans and senior ROTC cadets who would be graduating. “This is an awesome event they put on for veterans,” said Williams, a section manager in quality assurance for Nissan North America in Smyrna. Williams served in the U.S. Army during 1994–2004 as a military police officer, eventually transitioning from active duty to the reserves. He is a husband (to Taronda Williams) and a father (daughter Alexandria Williams, 19, is a Motlow State Community College student). During the stole ceremony, Huber praised the student veterans who he said were about “to enter, serve the community and the workforce. . . . Businesses are looking for your teamwork, accountability, and discipline. What you do with this degree—this newly gained knowledge— is to be leaders and to be honorable in the workforce.” Smyrna Mayor Mary Esther Reed, an MTSU alumna, and Town Manager Brian Hercules also attended the ceremony, along with Veterans Affairs benefits staff and David Corlew, the longtime manager for Charlie Daniels and co-founder with him of The Journey Home veteran support organization. Before the stole ceremony, 50 people attended an inaugural breakfast provided by title sponsor Amazon. The breakfast was held for student veterans and their families, Amazon representatives, and other business leaders interested in hiring veteran graduates.


A group of 30 MTSU faculty and staff members are shown with LTG(R) Keith M. Huber (third from right in first row), at the end of the inaugural MTSU Faculty/Staff Veterans Stole Ceremony. photo by Andy Heidt

Expanding the Net As dean of MTSU’s Jones College of Business, David Urban (Ph.D.) is the highest-ranking veteran on the academic side of the University. Urban served in the U.S. Navy and has spent 35 years in academia. The last six have been at MTSU, overseeing explosive growth in Jones College. Because of his military connection, Urban was asked to deliver remarks at the inaugural MTSU Faculty/Staff Veterans Stole Ceremony in November at the Miller Education Center on Bell Street. The ceremony was a new way for the University to recognize all of those on campus who have served in the various branches of military. Huber presented each honoree with the red stoles and special commemorative coins also shared each semester with graduating student veterans. Nearly 30 veterans were honored in the formal ceremony, a prelude to the 38th annual MTSU Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces events celebrated around the next day’s football game. The faculty/staff event will precede the annual Salute activities in the future. “There is a difference in the clarity of the mission,” Urban said in comparing academics and the military. “In the military, my job was to defend the Constitution of the United States, protecting us from all enemies foreign and domestic.

“Our mission in academics should be to provide our students with an outstanding education that is transformational and unforgettable.” MTSU alumnus Chris Rochelle, an enrollment coordinator at MT One Stop who also serves as a liaison between his office and the Daniels Center, served in the U.S. Army in 2002–11, including a tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom II. “It makes me happy they are doing this for us,” said Rochelle, adding that he is “proud to be a part of a celebration of this nature when the University acknowledges its veterans.” “One of the reasons I came here was because of the veterans center,” Professor Anne Anderson, holder of Jones College’s Weatherford Chair of Finance, told the audience. In speaking to her MTSU colleagues, Anderson appealed to them “to reach out to your student veterans, talk to them about the challenges they face and that they are not alone. They have a unique opportunity here.” The Weatherford Chair of Finance, established in 1986, honors Jack Weatherford, one of Tennessee’s most distinguished bankers. Now 95, he is a decorated World War II Navy veteran. Huber welcomed the audience, calling the event “another new tradition” for the Daniels Center, and thanked them for attending. “We have a 9/11 Remembrance ceremony, student veterans stole ceremony, and now a faculty/staff stole ceremony,” Huber said. “You proudly demonstrate you were a servant leader in uniform and how you are an influencer in the academic environment.” S U MMER 2 0 2 0 1 7


IN BOTH WORD AND DEED

MTSU’s annual Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces game honors those who have served. photo by Cat Curtis Murphy

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The halftime parade recognizes veterans and military members. photo by Cat Curtis Murphy

With every passing year, MTSU’s salute to service weekend keeps getting bigger and better by Randy Weiler Each year, the Daniels Center, in conjunction with MTSU football, hosts the Salute to Veterans and Armed Services activities as a way to pay tribute to U.S. veterans and current active-duty personnel. The day consists of a veterans’ memorial service, picnic, Vets Village, Dr. Joe Nunley Award, and halftime salute parade. Highlights of a recent Salute weekend included: • Two Tennessee Army National Guard helicopters landed one by one on the MTSU football practice field on Nov. 16, 2019, stirring up grass, dirt, and debris and prompting children to scream with delight and start running excitedly in all directions. • A special game ball delivery by the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division and the Tennessee National Guard’s B Company, 1-230th Assault Helicopter Battalion/Army Aviation Support Facility No. 3 from Jackson, Tennessee, took place just before kickoff. • Songwriter Steve Dean of Goodlettsville performed “Screaming Eagle,” a song he co-wrote with the late Blake Pickel, an MTSU alumnus who died in September after survival training exercises, bringing tears to the MTSU Veterans Memorial Service audience. Terra Pickel, of Cleveland, Tennessee, was moved by the special tribute to her husband, who already had been an Army medic and who graduated in May 2017 from MTSU and was commissioned as a second lieutenant through MTSU’s ROTC program. She was joined by their daughters, Taygen, 9, and Adalyn, 4, and over 20 other family members at the ceremony. “It’s really great to know his school cared,” Terra Pickel said. “The song meant a great deal to me. They did a really great job” with the ceremony. • And, with pride, MTSU alumnus Don Witherspoon (’64) accepted the Nunley Award, presented by Nunley’s daughter, Jeana (Nunley) Goodwin (’76). Hundreds of veterans, their family members, and active-duty military turned out for the 38th annual Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces activities that Saturday on the MTSU campus. It is an annual tradition capped off by the Band of Blue’s halftime performance— playing the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy anthems as veterans from the respective branches march across midfield. Alumnus Bob Hardison (’67) of Huntsville, Alabama, who served in the Army’s field artillery, said “it’s nice to be recognized” during the halftime medley by the Band of Blue. He attended with his wife, Linda Lou Hardison. S U MMER 2 0 2 0 1 9


True Blue Traditions MTSU, now in partnership with the Daniels Center, annually hosts three special events geared towards veterans and student veterans that further emphasize the University’s deep commitment to its military legacy.

Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces Football Game Since 1982, MTSU has dedicated a football game annually to thank service members in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard for their sacrifices for Americans’ freedom. The Salute to Veterans and Armed Services game activities include a memorial service, picnic, Vet Village, Joe Nunley Award ceremony, children’s toy collection, and halftime parade across Horace Jones Field—all paying tribute to veterans and active-duty personnel. Jordan McCall Sr., vocational rehabilitation counselor, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs 20


ANNUAL EVENTS

9/11 Remembrance Memorial A ceremony is held on campus at the Veterans Memorial each year to commemorate the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Graduating Veterans Stole Ceremony MTSU senior Jackie Evans, of Brentwood, Tennessee, receives the Journey Award from David Corlew with The Journey Home Project in August 2018 at the 11th Graduating Veterans Stole Ceremony.

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Don Witherspoon (‘64) accepts the Dr. Joe Nunley Award during MTSU’s 38th Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces Nov. 16, 2019. S U MMER 2 0 2 0 21


HOME OF THE BRAVO The Blue Raider American Veteran Organization (BRAVO) was founded in 2008 to act as a voice for veterans’ issues at MTSU.

Since its inception, BRAVO has been involved in changes to campus policy that have increased veteran services. These include veteran-focused classes, early registration for veterans, a military center, and the approval of a Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. Among its ranks, BRAVO boasts veterans from several different military generations (Afghanistan, Iraq, Gulf, Vietnam) and multiple services. Some members are still in the National Guard and reserve units of multiple branches of the armed forces. Membership includes students, faculty, and alumni, as well as supporters from the community. BRAVO’s mission is to provide an inclusive student organization for veterans in and out of the military and to offers networking and organizes social and service events, extend veteran-specific services, and advocate on behalf of student veterans. The MTSU organization is a chapter member of the national Student Veterans of America and works to coordinate with other veterans’ groups from around the region. The group is for veterans and supporters connected to MTSU, and anyone can join. BRAVO is actively looking for veterans, family members of vets, and anyone who supports the military to join. It’s also open to alumni veterans.

Ways to Support BRAVO Make gifts online at mtsu.edu/supportMT. Click on the button titled: Select the fund(s) for your gift. Under College, choose Liberal Arts. In the Additional Comments box, please identify the BRAVO fund to which you are donating. Checks should be made to the MTSU Foundation with a note on the memo line that names the BRAVO fund. Mail to: Office of Development MTSU Box 109 Murfreesboro, TN 37132


ROTC ROLL CALL We invite those just starting out on their academic journey to visit the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center. Stop by and see us.

And for those that have graduated and gone on to careers, it’s time to come home. Drop in and let’s catch up.

mtsu.edu/arotc1 615-898-2470 Army ROTC is a college elective you take with your other college courses. ROTC offers you the opportunity to • learn self-discipline and study skills • make lifelong relationships • challenge yourself physically and mentally •d  evelop confidence to succeed anywhere

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P RTNERS F O R PAT R I O T S Corporate partnerships cultivated by the Daniels Center benefit student veterans in various ways by Drew Ruble and Randy Weiler The Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center at MTSU provides a bevy of services for military members, veterans, and their families. Director Hilary Miller described it as the “E” Mission: “enroll military-connected students, encourage them while here, help them find employment, educate the MTSU community, and expand the veteran-education knowledge base.” Many of those goals are achieved through savvy partnerships with corporate entities that have “bought in” to the Daniels Center’s mission.

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Taking Flight

Veterans have been trained to operate in the extreme and to adapt to an evolving landscape by thinking quickly on their feet. Said another way, they tend to be self-disciplined and able to handle chaos that sometimes comes with fast-paced situations. By virtue of their successes in the military, veterans have demonstrated they have leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills. These qualities are highly sought after by employers. Fulfilling the job component of the Daniels Center’s noble aim goes far beyond simply nudging military-associated individuals toward civilian jobs for which they may be qualified. The center is actively forging relationships with businesses throughout the state (and sometimes beyond) to ensure applicants from the Daniels Center are given consideration worthy of people who’ve sworn to risk their lives to protect our country, as well as those in their families.


LTG(R) Keth M. Huber (l) inspects an aircraft simulator at Delta headquarters in Atlanta. photo by Andrew Oppmann

MTSU student veteran Martinna Young tries on an Ascension baseball cap during the inaugural signing of the Saint Thomas Nursing Corps when she became the first member. photo by James Cessna

Interview roleplay, cultural coaching that includes wardrobe suggestions, and résumé polishing services are just a few of the ways the Daniels Center helps candidates enter the job market confident in their abilities to succeed in the private sector. Country music entertainer Charlie Daniels, the namesake for the MTSU center, believes veterans make the best employees. “Our veterans are the cream of the crop,” he said. “They understand what responsibility really means. They are some of the most desirable people to hire because you’re getting qualities that you might not get from rank-and-file people looking for work.” University Provost Mark Byrnes led a team from MTSU to Delta Air Lines’ world headquarters in

Army veteran Tyrone Barmore (center), a Delta supply attendant, is welcomed to MTSU’s Adult Degree Completion Program by University leaders. photo by Andrew Oppmann

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U.S. veteran Phillip Rich sits near the fireplace in the recreation room at the Alvin C. York Veterans Affairs Medical Center to play one of four guitars presented by MTSU and Schneider Electric for music therapy at the veterans facility. photo by James Cessna

Atlanta recently with the goal to layer veteran outreach and adult degree completion opportunities upon the already substantial partnership between the two organizations. Byrnes was joined by Miller from the Daniels Center; Army LTG(R) Keith M. Huber, MTSU senior advisor for veterans and leadership initiatives; and Peggy Carpenter, associate dean of MTSU’s University College. The three, along with others from MTSU in support roles, met with the leadership of Delta’s Propel program. MTSU was one of eight universities selected by Delta to participate in Propel, which provides select Aerospace students with “qualified job offers” that detail a defined path and an accelerated timeline to becoming a pilot for the airline. Byrnes and Huber pledged to work with Delta to make Propel more visible among MTSU’s population of student veterans, which number more than 1,000 and with whom Aerospace is the most popular major. The MTSU team also toured Delta’s

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flight operations and technical operations centers and huddled with the airline’s Veterans Business Resource Group (VBRG), an employee-led effort to support a corporate commitment to recruit and hire those who have served in the armed forces. In February 2019, Delta Air Lines officials visited MTSU for a firsthand look at the Daniels Center and veterans initiatives. The half-day meeting allowed MTSU leaders to learn more about Delta’s VBRG and for Huber and Miller to share details about the Daniels Center—all with a goal of developing a relationship to help the University’s military-connected students find jobs in all areas of Delta. “This visit by the Veterans Business Resource Group and board is significant, given the fact that Delta Airlines has tens of thousands of employees and many of those are veterans, and to be able to offer to those veterans an awareness and access to their Veterans Affairs benefits and education benefits and to assist them with the Daniels Center,” Huber said.

“To assist them and their families while they are in transition is the noble reason that we are having this interaction and further development of this relationship.” VBRG President Kurt Robinson, Delta’s manager for quality control receiving inspection and a former U.S. Air Force crew chief, said he and his two visiting colleagues from Atlanta were impressed with what they saw and heard. MTSU “is an outstanding organization,” Robinson said. “We like their goals and objectives.” He added that the campus visit was “to understand what the veterans center is doing” and “understand future opportunities for veterans and veterans’ families.”

Power Play

The industry partnerships the Daniels Center has cultivated do more than just create job opportunities for student veterans, though. They also provide corporations the opportunity for outreach


and service to community that translate into greater opportunities for MTSU’s student veterans as well. The Nashville Predators pro hockey team stepped forward in March 2020 to raise money and awareness for MTSU student veterans in distress and whose educational benefits have either expired or have been exhausted. Predators President/CEO Sean Henry joined MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Charlie Daniels, who has financially supported the Daniels Center through his foundation, to announce the creation of The General’s Fund during a news conference at Bridgestone Arena. Through this partnership, Henry said the Predators and MTSU will help Huber support military-connected students who struggle financially to reach their higher education and career goals. Huber, along with Miller, will direct money from the fund to help student veterans with the greatest financial needs. “MTSU proudly serves more than 1,000 military-connected students, yet about 20% of them no longer have the educational benefits that were earned through service to our country,” Henry said. “The General’s Fund that we are establishing today will help fill that gap.”

Nashville Predators President/CEO Sean Henry (l–r) presented legendary musician Charlie Daniels, Hazel Daniels, and MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee with special edition Preds sweaters at a March 2 announcement about The General’s Fund.​ photo by David Foster

“We deeply appreciate our partnership with the Predators,” McPhee said. “Their commitment to support The General’s Fund, for this and future seasons, will harness the power of this great franchise to yet again bring forth positive change in our community.” Daniels, who attended the press conference with his wife, Hazel, described the honor of his name upon MTSU’s veteran and military family center as greater than his selection in the Country Music Hall of Fame. The couple thanked Henry, the Predators, and Bridgestone Arena for stepping forward to help create The General’s Fund. “Only two things protect the United States of America: the grace of almighty God and the United States military,” Daniels said.

Huber and Miller honor Barrett Firearms leadership (l–r) LTC(R)Joel Miller, Ronnie Barrett, Sam Shallenberger, and Bryan James for supporting the Daniels Center. photo by Andy Heidt

The Bottom Line

Establishing meaningful relationships with employers also allows the Daniels Center to provide information designed to help the veteran employee thrive in his/her new position. For instance, Huber, a retired three-star general and the nation’s longestservice Green Beret, regularly makes himself available to provide leadership training to companies that have hired veterans through MTSU’s Daniels Center. The Daniels Center also nurtures relationships with employers who hire its candidates with a certificate ceremony to demonstrate how much it values the relationship. Miller and Huber go to the business in person. “Sure, we could thank these employers through an email, but we want to have ongoing conversations with these employers,” Miller said. “We present them with a nice certificate explaining why we’re honoring them.” Waffle House, ServePro, UBS, and Dollar General are just a few of the companies to receive visits recently. Daniels Center officials recognize Dollar General executives for their strong partnership. photo by Andrew Oppmann

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Nonprofit Organization U. S. Postage PAID Murfreesboro, TN Permit No. 169

1301 E. Main St. Murfreesboro, TN 37132

SALUTE A VETERAN

Since 1911, Middle Tennessee State University students, faculty, staff, and alumni have served our country with distinction. Members of MTSU’s extended family have joined the military to serve and protect our country, to aid others in crisis, and to spread democracy around the world. For a $150 contribution, you can honor a veteran or active-duty service member who is important in your life while supporting the overall MTSU effort to remember all veterans who have demonstrated the Blue Raider spirit of service to campus, community, and country.

Visit mtsu.edu/military/memorial/bricks.php or call Hilary Miller, Daniels Center, 615-904-8347 28

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JOURNEY  

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